Chinoiserie : a western vision of the east

Anything that gives off a vibe of old-world mystique makes its way into our creative mix. This precisely explains our fascination with time-honored crafts and techniques. One such jewel that we recently unearthed from our craft casket was Chinoiserie.


Image source: Tulips

You may have caught this French word in the pages of glossy interior and fashion magazines. And while, you may have not been able to commit this word to your memory, the enchanting images of ceramics and textiles lathered in decorative Chinese-esque motifs, however, will surely spring to mind.


Image source: Tulips

Chinoiserie comes from French, which means ‘in the style of Chinese’. Despite the word’s semantic suggestion of China, the art form is not of Chinese or Asian provenance. Surprising, isn’t it? So where does it actually come from? Chinoiserie is essentially an exotic European vision of the art and culture of East Asian countries including China, Japan, India, and Korea.

So if the art borrows stylistic elements from other East Asian countries, then why does the word only acknowledge China? For this, we’d need to go back in time, as far as 13th century. A swashbuckling bloke by the name of Marco Polo had voyaged all the way to Asia. The fascination with the East, from the true sense, started with his expedition.


Image source: Tulips

After Marco Polo, only a few fearless folks like travelers, explorers, and merchants dared venture beyond the known. The Europeans, in their astonishment of the foreign land and its people, culture, and art failed to tell apart one cultural community from other. That’s how the word into being, despite the art form encompassing design components from neighboring cultures.

The visual sources for Chinoiserie mainly came from the travelogues of travelers and missionaries. European artists and craftsmen mingled their whimsical interpretation of the exotic land with rococo extravagance that was à la mode. As time elapsed, trade between Europe and Asia mushroomed, igniting insane interest in porcelain, tea, artifacts, silk worms, pagodas, and other curiosities.

From table sets to furniture, carpets to architecture, Chinoiserie began to appear in all facets of design. Owning porcelain urns, wallpapers, mirror frames, vases, tapestries, lacquered paintings, and screens bearing pagodas, dragons, fretwork, tea-drinking Mandarins, Foo dogs etc. became celebrated badges of style and sophistication.


Image source: Tulips

While it’s true that Chinoiserie came to Europe many centuries ago, but its aesthetic appeal which can morph a modest space into a memorable setting hasn’t eluded today’s top interior designers who use the art form to work up a sense of drama, rarity, and tension.

If you want to bring in whimsy and exotic charm in your interiors with Chinoiserie, then give us a call on on 7875555413 and our design ninja will take it from there.