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date: 22 September 2019

Chinoiserielocked

  • Monique Riccardi-Cubitt

Extract

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, ...

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