Defined as a decorative style in Western art, furniture, garden design and architecture, Chinoiserie is an eighteenth century trend in art and design that has never truly gone out of style.

Immediately identifiable, Chinoiserie has never been authentically Chinese, instead showing Western interpretations of Ancient China through incredibly pretty lenses that have included hand painted wallpapers, porcelain so delicate that to touch it is to worry, and gardens, villas and palaces so ornate that one can only wonder at the wealth that must have equipped families to build them.

Today, this Western reimagining of another country’s art and architecture has inevitably raised questions of cultural appropriation in the forms of Orientalism and Exoticism. Indeed, in 2009 the critic David Beevers wrote that even in eighteenth century Europe “… Those with a more archaeological view of the East, considered the Chinoiserie style, with its distortions and whimsical approach, to be a mockery of the actual Chinese art and architecture.”

Nonetheless, for many Europeans including the far from restrained French royal family at Versailles and the United Kingdom’s equally spendthrift King George IV, the style became a source of fascination. Both the palace of Versailles and George’s favourite home, the Royal Pavillion in Brighton, boast incredibly opulent displays of Chinoiserie throughout.

According to some critics, one reason for this may be that while Europeans of the era often had no real idea about life and culture in East Asia, they were fascinated by it and respectful towards it, possibly because in the era of Emperors and long lasting dynasties, the Chinese court was seen as highly civilized. According to French author Voltaire, “The fact remains that four thousand years ago, when [the French] did not know how to read, they [the Chinese] knew everything essentially useful of which we boast today.”

By creating and buying works that reflected Chinese style and its immaculate craftsmanship, Voltaire and other lovers of this intricate, delicate and incredibly feminine style suggested a respect for the culture that had inspired it.

Today, fans of the style can show their appreciation for it when they invest in homeware such as wallpaper that may or may not be the hand-painted silk our wealthy ancestors once lusted after, teapots that are made from hardier materials than the porcelain (or ‘china’) that was once such a coup to own, clothing such as a cheongsam dress or trousers from Zara in a beautiful print or beautiful pieces of furniture for our homes, without necessarily paying tribute to any of the ideas previous generations had about Chinoiserie.

Here, Magpie shows you a few of our favourite pieces.

Chinoserie wallpaper from Ymural studio.

Chinoserie wallpaper from Ymural studio.

Chinoserie wallpaper from Ymural studio.

Mural  – Source online chinoiserie wall murals and panels

Chinoserie wallpaper from Ymural studio.

Chinoserie wallpaper from Ymural studio.

Mural – Source online chinoiserie wall murals and panels

Chinoserie wallpaper from Ymural studio.

 

Magpie’s pick of the best Chinoserie Brands

Inside Fabric: www.insidefabric.com

Mural Sources: www.MuralSources.com

Yr Mural: www.yrmural.com

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Mural source online chinoiserie wall murals and panels