AFA Autumn 2019

Antiques & Fine Art 107 2019 Fig. 4: Gown ( robe à la française ). Textile: possibly Amsterdam; garment: England, ca. 1735–1740; altered ca. 1780. Polychrome, supplementary weft-patterned satin; off-white plain-weave silk (taffeta) lining; off-white plain-weave linen bodice lining (F.660). Fig. 4a: Detail of figure 4. and manufacturing techniques of the latter were not viable options for Westerners. Finding creative solutions that resembled the aesthetics of Asian products and design resulted in simplified versions produced in greater numbers to meet the demands of a growing middle class. The museum’s vast ceramics collection is one of the best mediums through which to explore production processes. The popularity of blue and white decoration on Chinese porcelain inspired entrepreneurial Europeans to imitate the designs on less expensive ceramic bodies such as tin-glazed earthenware (Figs. 1, 2). Other means of reducing costs were to print rather than paint designs using transfer-printing. Printed designs pressed onto ceramics required a less skilled and less expensive labor force, thus making these wares even more affordable for consumers. Imported Chinese red stoneware teapots made at Yixing, the pottery capital of China, in Jiangsu province, were being imported into Europe by the mid-seventeenth century. Potters in Holland, England, and Germany began crafting their own imitations by the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Throughout the eighteenth century, in addition to teapots, Western craftsmen made other forms using “red china,” including tea canisters, cups, mugs, and jugs (Fig. 3). Another exhibition narrative, “Motifs and Arrangements,” explores the rich and varied design sources of chinoiserie. The appeal of generic Asian designs centered on the link to the wider world they evoked. Architectural elements with curving roofs (suggesting pagodas), umbrellas, exotic birds, and exposed or prominent rocks and tree roots (sometimes incorporated onto floating islands), were among the more familiar design elements. When human figures appeared in these landscapes, they were usually dressed in draped (untailored), non-Western, and stereotyped clothing. These motifs were frequently combined in different scales, even on the same piece, often positioned in vertical or diagonal orientations that referenced the pictorial traditions of certain Asian societies. However, the designs always conformed to prevailing Western tastes.