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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. When we think about Chinoiserie, we might be reminded of silky draped clothing or of homeware bearing illustrations of pagodas and dragons, which are all fair associations. Popular culture reinstates these characteristics in a variety of ways:
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. Rococo focused on exceptional ornamentalism and theatricalism and included maximalist home design and home decor, often characterized by dramatic curvatures and gold gilding. Given these features, it comes as no surprise that it 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 culture and the artistic practices for those regions, most notable among them the making of the Chinese porcelain hard paste. This curiosity gave rise to a separate area of study, Orientalism, which inspired European craftsmen and artists to start combining the cultural themes of the Far East with trends that were already popular in Europe, which at the time was the Rococo style. While Chinoiserie retained the emphasis on lavishness that was characteristic of Rococo, it began to display themes that were distinctly oriental. Thus, the most popular subject themes of Chinoiserie art are nature scenes, pagodas or animals and mythical creatures relating to the cultures of the Far East, such as dragons.
In this manner Chinoiserie came to be characterized by exuberant decoration, asymmetry, a focus on materials and stylized nature and subject matter that are tailored towards pleasure. This is one of the many reasons that high end leisure ware such as decadent silk robes employ Chinoiserie qualities; the style itself stands for luxurious leisure!
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 has 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, no doubt due to the serene subject themes that evoke feelings of tranquility and the delicate ways in which they are portrayed. Needles to say Chinoiserie furniture and home decor are the perfect accessory 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 or share a memento about your favorite Chinoiserie piece in the comments below!