Sunday, June 23, 2013


CHINOISERIE, (pronounced shin-waz-ree) is a French term meaning "Chinese-esque".  It makes reference to a recurring European artistic style, reflecting artistic influence from China.  It is easily recognizable because of it's fanciful imagery, asymmetrical format, contrasts in scale and the use of lacquer-like materials and decoration.  In a broader sense, it is a mix of Eastern and Western style elements of shape and decoration.

Chinoiserie had it's beginning in the mid-to-late 17th century in Europe, peaking in popularity around the middle of the 18th century. At this point it was assimilated into works by Francois Boucher but soon declined because the European thinking at the time viewed it as the very antithesis of neoclassicism.

There has been a resurgence since the late 20th century.  Modern interpretations are combined with modern design elements and techniques and are seen throughout Europe and North America.

Western designers from the Renaissance through the 17th century imitated Chinese ceramics but with only partial success.  This element was brought into European porcelain products such as tea wares.

Louis XV of France, incorporated chinoiserie with the rococo style popular at the time.  Entire rooms at Chateau de Chantilly had chinoiserie in the decor.  Mahogany tea tables and china cabinets by Thomas Chippendale were adorned with fretwork, glazing, and railings in the style.  Examples can also be found in the tile panels at Aranjuez, near Madrid.  It is an artistic style that will continue to dot the decorative landscape finding new relationships with other styles.

Image above is an example of 20th century chinoiserie, a hand painted music box I found at an estate sale in 1984

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