chinoiserie (shēnwäzrēˈ) [key], decorative work produced under the influence of Chinese art, applied particularly to the more fanciful and extravagant manifestations. Intimations of Eastern art reached Europe in the Middle Ages in the porcelains brought by returning travelers. Eastern trade was maintained during the intervening centuries, and the East India trading companies of the 17th and 18th cent. imported Chinese lacquers and porcelains. Dutch ceramics quickly showed the influence of Chinese blue-and-white porcelains. In the middle of the 18th cent. the enthusiasm for Chinese objects affected practically every decorative art applied to interiors, furniture, tapestries, and bibelots and supplied artisans with fanciful motifs of scenery, human figures, pagodas, intricate lattices, and exotic birds and flowers. In France the Louis XV style gave especial opportunities to chinoiserie, as it blended well with the established rococo. Whole rooms, such as those at Chantilly, were painted with compositions in chinoiserie, and Watteau and other artists brought consummate craftsmanship to the style. Thomas Chippendale, the chief exponent in England, produced a unique and decorative type of furniture. The craze early reached the American colonies. Chinese objects, particularly fine wallpapers, played an important role in the adornment of rooms, and especially in Philadelphia the style had a pronounced effect upon design.
See study by H. Honour (1961).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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