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A style culminating from years of trade and cultural exchange between the East and the West, Chinoiserie is equally admired for its historical significance as it is for its beauty. We might associate Chinoiserie with illustrations of pagodas and dragons or loose clothing made of silk, which is fair given how popular culture reinstates these characteristics in a variety of ways:
However, what may come as a surprise to most is that despite the style embodying Far East cultural themes and styles, it is a distinctly European style that originated and popularized in Europe, namely France and England. Read on to find out more about this fascinating area of style and get inspired to incorporate some Chinoiserie pieces into your home!
Chinoiserie refers to to the European imitation of East Asian artistic traditions and is a derivative of the Rococo style, that was popularized during the 17th and 18th century. Ornamentalism and theatricalism, often characterized by dramatic curvatures and gold gilding , was central to the Rococo style and Chinoiserie retained many of these qualities. Given these features, it comes as no surprise that Rococo and later, Chinoiserie was the most popular style among the monarchs, most notably Louis XV of France.
When trade between China and European countries became more common, there was increased interest in learning more about the artistic practices of those regions, such as the production process of Chinese porcelain hard paste. This curiosity gave rise to a separate area of study, Orientalism, which inspired European craftsmen and artists to start combining Eastern cultural themes with the popular Western style at the time, the Rococo. The resulting style was Chinoiserie, and while it retained the emphasis on grandiosity, characteristic of Rococo, it displayed it with distinctly oriental themes. Thus, the most popular subject themes of Chinoiserie are nature scenes, pagodas or animals and mythical creatures relating to the cultures of the Far East, such as dragons.
Chinoiserie came to be characterized by exuberant decoration, asymmetry, and stylized subject matter tailored towards pleasure. This is one of the many reasons that high end leisure ware such as decadent silk robes employ Chinoiserie qualities!
Modern Chinoiserie: Chic and Smooth
It is safe to say that Chinoiserie never permanently went out of style since its origins in the 17th century. If anything, it evolved to be synonymous with the most elegant style of living; the world’s most famous fashion and interior design moguls are avid fans of the Chinoiserie influence!
Chinoiserie also has a strong association with luxury, undoubtedly because of its tranquil subject themes and the decadent portrayal of them. Needles to say Chinoiserie furniture and home decor are perfect accessories to a room that is already used for leisure, such as drawing rooms and bedrooms.
Try out the style by browsing our Chinoiserie collection (the dragon below is the link) if you haven’t already and share a memento about your favorite Chinoiserie piece in the comments below!