Dragons  & Pagodas 

 By Janet Reagor

Sixteenth century Europeans envisioned the Far East as mysterious—even mythological—a fascinating and wonderous place inhabited by strange creatures, marvelous flora, exotic people, and incredible architecture. With travel nearly nonexistent, the few who visited offered sparse bits about culture, art, and lifestyle, leaving Westerners to let their imaginations soar.

As Chinese marvels trickled into Europe in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, a stir began. Then around 1603 the Dutch East India Company captured a ship packed with Chinese Ming porcelain depicting lotus blossoms, dragons, and other wonderous themes. When they delivered the booty to the Port of Amsterdam, it was game on.

Imagine the typical European dining table, weighed down with wooden and pewter vessels alongside heavy ceramic dishes glazed in dark greens and browns. Suddenly, these lighter, brighter, almost luminescent blue and white porcelain dishes came ashore and put the sturdy local wares to shame.

 The rich and powerful leaped to purchase these treasures, while artists and artisans immediately sought to imitate, reimagine, and mass market them. Chinoiserie was born. Taken from their word for China, Chinois, the French—as undisputed fashion leaders of the day—embraced this completely fabricated reflection of Chinese art.

Read More

Author: Arbus

Share This Post On

Subscribe for the Weekly Buzz from Arbus Magazine

Join our email list! It's your spot for cultural to-do's around Northeast Florida.

You have Successfully Subscribed!