China | Chinese Antique Decorative Arts

Chinese antique Decorative Art in Georgian English Country Houses: 18th and 19th Century Treasures

The significance of China in the decorative arts of the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in relation to antique pieces made and exported to the Georgian English country houses, cannot be overstated. Chinese lacquerware, furniture, and porcelain were highly valued for their craftsmanship, aesthetics, and cultural significance, and they played a significant role in shaping the interior design and decorative styles of the time.

Chinese lacquerware was known for its exquisite craftsmanship, glossy finish, and durability, making it a popular choice for furniture, screens, and other decorative objects in English country houses. Chinese antique furniture, with its elegant and simple designs, expert joinery, and natural materials, was highly regarded for its craftsmanship and quality. Chinese-inspired furniture, known as “Chinoiserie,” was a popular trend in Georgian England, featuring Chinese motifs such as pagoda-shaped cabinets and lacquered screens.

Chinese porcelain, especially blue and white porcelain, was highly sought after by English collectors and was considered a luxury item in Georgian English country houses. Chinese porcelain was used to create elegant tableware, decorative objects, and ornamental pieces, often displayed in elaborate displays or used for entertaining guests during formal dinners.

The popularity of Chinese antique decorative art in Georgian English country houses was not only due to their aesthetic appeal but also because of the social and cultural significance attached to them. Chinese decorative arts were seen as a symbol of wealth, taste, and sophistication, and owning Chinese-inspired objects was considered fashionable among the English aristocracy and gentry, showcasing the owner’s wealth and cultural refinement.

The term “Chinese Export” suggests a one-way trade, but the reality was different. Long before the European craze for all things Eastern, the Chinese port of Canton had established itself as a trading hub with near-Eastern merchants. It is probable that the earliest Chinese export wares to reach the West came through these subsidiary ports and varied little from the wares made for the Chinese market. In the 17th century, with the expansion of The Dutch East India Company, East-West trade, particularly for blue and white porcelain, expanded exponentially, although the dominant trade was in raw materials, spices, tea, and silk.

The Chinese items in our collection, dating from the early 18th to the 19th century, including lacquer screens and cabinets, boxes and chests, Chinese porcelain, and works of art, were intended for the grand European and English country houses and reflect the close interactions between, merchants, designers, and artisans.


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