Francois Boucher “The Chinese Garden”
Chinoiserie Chic. Yeah, you knew it was coming. After all of those gorgeous vases I snapped at the gift show.
But, what IS Chinoiserie, actually? Its stuff from China, right? Porcelains, ginger jars, opium and ming tables. Well, these days, yes, but that wasn’t always the case. read on… I did not know this either.
Chinoiserie is a French word which refers to a EUROPEAN artistic style that reflects Chinese influence and is characterized through use of a fanciful, fantasized, romanticized, version of how Europeans IMAGINED people in the far east to be and live. So, what we think of as “Chinese” is often actually European! who knew?
When and how did it begin? Well, remember that dude, Marco Polo? In the 13th century, he traveled to the Orient which actually includes everything from the middle east on. He made several trips via the “silk road” (remember that one?) as it was known and brought back not only silks, porcelains and other exotic goods, but also fanciful stories, of pagodas, unusual dress, an exotic race.
This greatly intrigued the Europeans, particularly the English aristocracy who grew to covet everything Chinese. It was all the rage in the 17th and 19th centuries. Whimsical Oriental scenes with fantastical decorative details – Chinese people in elaborate robes with coolie hats, long ponytails and mustaches, along with intricately detailed pagodas, layered with fretwork, bells and tassels; or exotic animals such as monkeys, lions, and elephants in costume were all aspects of this fantasized depiction of Asian life.
That, is Chinoiserie and it is intermingled with genuine Chinese styles. ( just to add to the confusion) But these days, Chinoiserie is a broad classification of both traditional Chinese and the more modern European interpretation. It even made its way into furniture as was first interpreted by cabinet makers such as Thomas Chippendale; henceforth the term “Chinese Chippendale.” The fretwork designs also included the Greek Key pattern. Ahh.. but that is Greek, right? Actually, I believe that the Greeks probably stole it from the Chinese.
Today, Chinoiserie Chic is again, wildly popular.
Chinoiserie is the foundation for the Hollywood Regency Style, popularized by such designers as Ruthie Sommers, however, most designers use some form of Chinoiserie somewhere in their decorating. It is that popular and versatile and of course, an enduring classic.
In future blog posts, I will undoubtedly be narrowing down the many, many ways in which Chinoiserie is used and its different mediums, but for now, please enjoy this sampling of some of my favorite images.
All images via my pinterest page and if I did not provide a link, please contact me,
and I’ll be happy to find it for you.
ps: There is a wonderful blog if you don’t already know called Chinoiserie Chic. The ENTIRE blog is Chinoiserie and it’s fabulous!