Chinoiserie was introduced to Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries.
With a blend of Eastern and Western style features, furniture, interiors, tapestries and objet d’art carried fantastic motifs portraying idealised oriental scenery with exotic birds, dragons, flowers, figures, pagodas and the most intricate lattice work. The fascination and fantasies grew rapidly as the far Eastern trade expanded.
Chinoiserie was introduced to me at a much later date, when one day a friend brought a small painted cabinet to my studio. She was going to throw it away but thought it was something I might be interested in. Underneath 5 or 6 layers of thick pink gloss paint there was the slightest suggestion of raised patterns. Several rough attempts had been made to discover what laid beneath resulting in much damage.
If I wanted it, it was mine to do with it whatever I could.
Weeks of work and research followed (Chinoiserie is incredibly time consuming) as I carefully lifted the crude, gloss surface, gradually exposing the most exquisite gilt flora and fauna relief’s, raised against dramatic, painted mountain scenes. With much care I was able to keep any further damage to the absolute minimum and almost all the original skillfully laid gold leaf was saved.
That was the beginning of an ongoing and fascinating journey. Working on such a beautiful object had aroused my curiosity.
More and more research went into the finishes, subjects and techniques that make up the basis of these highly decorative pieces, until I was able to reproduce them accurately leading to the design of new work and textiles, and the restoration of valuable items, including museum pieces, from lacquered long case clocks to ornamented mirror frames oriental cabinets and small items such as tea caddies and jewellery boxes.
A fascinating art, a fascinating journey.
Above is a restored 18th c clock door, and below are more examples of my Chinoiserie work.. Click here to go to my Chinoiserie page on the website, where you can discover more about restoration of antique items up to museum standard, or commissioning new designs for the modern home or product.
Delightful and highly amusing in places, is one of my favourite books…
Chinoiserie by Dawn Jacobson which is published by Phaidon.