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Article

Monique Riccardi-Cubitt

Term derived from chinois (Fr.: ‘Chinese’) denoting a type of European art dominated by Chinese or pseudo-Chinese ornamental motifs. The term is most often applied to decorative arts produced from the second half of the 17th century to the early 19th, when trading contacts between Europe and East Asia were at their height.

Although overland and sea routes had brought a steady supply of Asian spices, silk, furs, ivory and other commodities to the ancient world, it was Marco Polo who first fired the imagination of the West with his description of his travels and experiences at Kublai Khan’s court that he published after his return to Venice in 1295. Other travellers also recorded their tales, the most famous being the pseudonymous ‘Sir John Mandeville’ whose Travels was published in Lyons in 1480. Its fairy-tale evocation of the Near East and East Asia was translated into every European language and fuelled a longing for ‘Cathay’. This romantic vision, taking the various forms of Chinoiserie, ...

Article

Oscar P. Fitzgerald

Technique for imitating Asian Lacquer. Once Dutch and Portuguese traders imported lacquer ware from the Far East after 1700, Europeans became fascinated by this technique. Originating in ancient China, it spread to Japan where it is still practiced in the 21st century. The process involved the application of up to a hundred coats of lacquer produced from the sap of the Rhus vernicifera tree, native to China, Malaya, and Japan. Despite attempts to discover the secret, Europeans could not duplicate the process. Since the sap quickly congeals it did not travel well and was toxic like poison ivy.

In 1688 A Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing by John Stalker and George Parker explained how to imitate the process by applying shellac dissolved in alcohol over a gessoed surface (see Stalker and Parker). Black was the most common color but red, white, blue, green, yellow, olive brown, and imitation tortoise shell (black streaked with vermillion) were also known. After designs were drawn on the surface, a mixture of red clay or sawdust, whiting, and gum arabic was daubed into the outlines and the raised images were sculpted with engraving tools and then colored with metal dust. A variation called ...

Article

Phylis Floyd

French term used to describe a range of European borrowings from Japanese art. It was coined in 1872 by the French critic, collector and printmaker Philippe Burty ‘to designate a new field of study—artistic, historic and ethnographic’, encompassing decorative objects with Japanese designs (similar to 18th-century Chinoiserie), paintings of scenes set in Japan, and Western paintings, prints and decorative arts influenced by Japanese aesthetics. Scholars in the 20th century have distinguished japonaiserie, the depiction of Japanese subjects or objects in a Western style, from Japonisme, the more profound influence of Japanese aesthetics on Western art.

There has been wide debate over who was the first artist in the West to discover Japanese art and over the date of this discovery. According to Bénédite, Félix Bracquemond first came under the influence of Japanese art after seeing the first volume of Katsushika Hokusai’s Hokusai manga (‘Hokusai’s ten thousand sketches’, 1814) at the printshop of ...

Article

Gordon Campbell

(b 1740; d 1829).

German japanner. His factory in Brunswick, which was established with the support of the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (reg 1735–80), was famous for fine, japanned papier-mâché snuff-boxes and similar items, painted with portraits, landscapes and genre scenes, made at his factory in Brunswick from 1765 until his death in 1829...