Chinoiserie: Fantasy Decoration of Yesterday and Today (I)

Written by Juliette Qi


Tapestry, «Prince chinois»


You’ve certainly heard about “Chinoiserie” in the field of Decorative Art, but do you know the origin of this historical art style that has inspired so many creations? Here is a video to give you some ideas.

This time, the Interact China team will be looking back at the history of Chinoiserie to better appreciate this style, which is of great interest and still applied in today’s interior decoration.

Born from Western taste for Oriental Arts, “Chinoiserie” is inspired by a kind of fantasy that mixes various exotic ornamental motifs. Throughout all the great European styles, from silks to furniture, in all fields from the decorative art to architecture, chinoiserie owes its success to its paradisiacal imagery, as well as to the wonderful stories of traveling merchants. Based both on their real experiences and their imagination, some European writers like Marco Polo and Jean de Mandeville also built their image of China in the similar way.

Table with Chinoiserie Design

In the field of Decorative Art, Europe owes a lot to Chinese art: western artisans have imitated ceramics, lacquers and precious fabrics imported from the Far East. Louis XIV construction of the Trianon de Porcelaine in Versailles is an example of this. In the eighteenth century, all castles in Europe had a Chinese living room or pavilion erected in a Chinese garden. It’s quiet interesting that, at that time, Europeans also covered the walls of their homes and decorated their everyday objects with scenes of Chinese life.

Glass Wine Cooler Painted Chinese Décor

Until the 16th century, trade with the Far East was only by land. However, the boom in maritime navigation increased its intensity. At the beginning of the 17th century, specific trading posts were set up, but the prices of these products imported to Europe remained expensive. So, Europeans tried to produce similar objects to compete with the imported products, which stimulated the desire to imitate some materials still unknown like lacquer or porcelain.

This is why varnishing developed to create objects comparable to lacquerwork, and generations of lacquerers were emerging all over Europe. In the 18th century in Paris, the Martin Brothers developed the Vernis Martin, which produced multiple compositions of colored images, glued and varnished on furniture.

Tea Box in Black and Gold Lacquer, Featuring Characters

Since it was nearly impossible to manufacture porcelain without materials thought to be found only in Asia, earthenware was first used to imitate porcelain  and a fake porcelain, called soft porcelain, was invented. The Delft manufacturers did a particularly good job in this area by adopting the blue and white decoration of the Ming period (1368-1644). But it is the discovery of kaolinite in Saxony that finally allowed for the Western manufacture of porcelain with the same qualities as those of China. The ceramic wares of Meissen and elsewhere were thus able to take inspiration from the Chinese forms for their plates, vases and tea sets.

Pair of Cloisonné Vases, Canton (China)

Thus, a particular art style was born in Europe, based on Sino-European intercultural communication. It is rather fantastic, isn’t it? In the next episode, we’ll invite you to continue our journey through time and space to explore the development of this inspiring art style.




About Interact China

“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide” 

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!

If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us, we would love to hear from you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s