The styles called chinoiserie were the European dream of the Orient, as escapist style of decoration that flourished in the courts and houses of seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe.
The lighthearted fantasy of chinoiserie was one of jade pavilions, pleasure domes, ivory pagodas, delicate bridges over rushing rivers, and it is reflected in places like the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England, the splendors of Versailles, and the exotic lacquered cabinets and the ceramics of England, Holland, and France. This Western idea of what oriental things were like - or ought to be like - is still evident today in fabrics and tableware which owe their patterns to oriental origins. Oliver Impey first traces the trade between East and West that over the centuries brought exotic goods to Europe. The high price and comparative scarcity of such imports quickly led to imitations in both Europe and America. These imitations were often wildly inaccurate and highly fanciful, for they were based not only on the importations, but also on travellers' tales heard second - or third-hand. And, in the course of the trading, the ultimate origin of the imported object was often forgotten: this made it easier for the European designers and craftsmen to mix indiscriminately motifs, patterns, and material drawn from totally different oriental countries - China, Persia and India. The articles thus derived - furniture, textiles, architecture, gardens, and ceramics - are chinoiserie. Oliver Impey examines the varied applications of the style from its beginnings through its height in the mid-eighteenth century when chinoiserie mixed with the flourishing rococo style, to its modern application in textile and ceramic design.
Published by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1977 | Hardcover
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