When I think back to my trip to Portugal…
…I am reminiscent of the amazing azulejos tiles that dominated the narrow, winding streets of Lisbon. These traditional tiles are evocative of white porcelain ceramics decorated with blue figures of the far east that monopolise the Chinoiserie style, but do these images adequately portray a true sense of Asian culture? Chinoiserie is derived from the French word chinois, meaning Chinese, which can give you an idea of the origin of this historic trend. The decorative style of Chinoiserie originated in Europe during the 17th century as a result of rising trade with the East. Many of the European artists that contributed to the rise of the style during the 18th century never actually traveled to Asia but created their interpretation of Asian culture and design from others who had traveled to Asia as well as the Asian artefacts that were coming through the trading routes.
Add a splash of colour from the East with the Xanadu Red and Orange cushions. The Silk twill and cotton polyester Chinese knot-print cushions features digitally-illustrated Chinese decorative knots symbolising happiness, luck and prosperity framing a beautiful central knot pattern, this cushion is a striking addition to the living room or bedroom.
Common characteristics of chinoiserie are Chinese figures, dragons, cherry blossoms, pagodas, and Asian landscapes. The style takes inspiration not only from China but numerous Asian cultures including Japan, Korea, and India. These motifs that originated from around Asia and found their way onto furniture and other decorative objects in the houses of European aristocrats hold deep symbolism. The symbol of the dragon is a sign of strength and good luck in Chinese mythology as well as the foo dogs, which usually come as a pair of male and female to guard temples and palaces represent the balance of yin and yang. Like the Chinese Famille Rose Coaster Set, Chinoiserie is a narrative style that tells a story or depicts a scene artists thought common in Asia at the time. As the style developed it took inspiration from the Rococo movement that was simultaneously occurring during the 18th century. The influence of this style can be seen in the embellished gold accents and leafing that is present in most Chinoiserie furniture.
Today the majority of the public is aware that this design does not accurately represent the Chinese or Asian cultures it portrays but it does remind us what the wonder of the unknown can inspire. Those European designers and consumers were in awe of the culture that was newly exposed to the West with its unusual dress and emphasis on ceremony and tradition. We can take these ideas and incorporate a modern day spin on the chinoiserie where we juxtapose the contemporary design common today with exotic and bold pieces that represents your interest in different cultures.
Shop our Chinoiserie Chic style to view all furniture items, artworks and accessories to help you accomplish this wonderfully unique aesthetic.
Written by Sondra Kinney