|A French chinoiserie inkwell, ca. 1880 April's painting for the |
Parvum Opus 2013 desk calendar
Happy Valentine's Day All! Today, in honor of the day, I'm sharing the painting I did for the month of April in the Parvum Opus 2013 desk calendar along with several other Valentine-hued chinoiserie pieces. April's painting features a 19th century French chinoiserie inkwell of painted metal, or tole, with beaded gilt metal fittings. As you can see in my illustration, this inkwell is a bit on the shabby side, with some chipping to the paint and dents to the fittings.... But that color! I simply couldn't resist including it in this year's collection, and from what I hear so far, many of our clients have chosen it as their favorite.
|A similar 19th Century French inkwell, with smooth gilt fittings,|
recently sold on 1stdibs
In the preface to her inspiring book, Chinoiserie (Phaidon, 1993), Dawn Jacobson writes:
"Chinoiserie is an oddity. It is a wholly European style whose inspiration is entirely oriental. True chinoiseries are not pallid or incompetent imitations of Chinese objects. They are tangible and solid realizations in the West of a land of the imagination: an exotic, remote country, fabled for its riches, that through the centuries remained cloud-wrapped, obstinately refusing to allow more than a few foreigners beyond its gates."
|A French chinoiserie inkstand by the same maker as the inkwell in my painting,|
from Susan Silver Antiques
Ms. Jacobson continues: " Those few travellers to make the long voyage to Cathay, as China was known in the Middle Ages, returned with tales that surpassed the imaginings of their fascinated audience in Europe. This fanciful vision of a quasi-mythical land was fuelled by the inimitable nature of those few objects brought to the West by the returning adventurers who had penetrated Cathay's mysteries. The notion that China was a land unlike any other, inhabited by people whose manners and conduct were unknown elsewhere, found fertile soil in the western mind. In the seventeenth century, evidence of the Orient's prodigious wealth buttressed western imaginations. Porcelain, lacquer, ivory and silk, unloaded from the great ships of the East India Companies, filled the wharfs and warehouses of Europe's maritime powers."
|An English red lacquer chinoiserie chest, 1850-1900,|
from Susan Silver Antiques
"To meet the growing demand for Eastern imports, inventive artists and craftsmen from all over Europe began to produce their own alternatives--chinoiseries-- which while evoking the products of China did not imitate them. Indeed the means of imitation were not at hand. So pottery factories throughout Europe strove to produce versions of blue-and-white Ming porcelains, local 'japanners' lacquered furniture with wayward designs, English needlewomen reproduced the Indian Tree of Life design in crewel embroideries, and imaginative tapestry makers represented the life of the Chinese emperor. The taste for chinoiserie became ubiquitous and affected every area of the decorative arts from complete interiors to needle-cases..."
An English lacquer tea trolley, ca. 1880,from Susan Silver Antiques
"In the nineteenth [century], chinoiserie's high point was furnished by the Prince Regent's Royal Pavilion at Brighton, and the adoption of a new style by the new middle classes invigorated and extended its role."
|The Banqueting Room at the Royal Pavilion,|
from John Nash's Views of the Royal Pavilion, 1826
"Chinoiserie continues to flourish. Its ability to bob along with the changing tides of fashion has made it an abiding, if often unrecognized leitmotif in the design of everyday objects. When we drink tea from a blue-and-white china cup, choose paeonies and plum-blossom to flower on our curtains, or conceal the television behind a lacquered screen, we are its unconscious heirs, followers of the passion for the arts of China that consumed the West for hundreds of years and led its artists and craftsmen in an exhilarating pursuit of its charms."
If, like me, you can't get enough of the exhilarating pursuit, you may enjoy perusing Ms. Jacobson's thoroughly researched and beautifully illustrated book...and don't forget the tea, of course!