Chinoiserie

Chinese Gallery Brighton Pavilion

The fashion for Chinese art and design, known as Chinoiserie, peaked around the middle of the 18th century. Among the most important of the mid-eighteenth century books about Chinese architecture and design is Desseins des edifices, meubles, habits, machines, et ustenciles des Chinois (London, 1757) by William Chambers, of which the RBLA has a first edition.

Chambers  (1726-1796)  travelled twice to China in the 1740s as a merchant in the service of the Swedish East India Company. During the long voyages he occupied his time by studying architecture.Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines and Utensils, dedicated to George, Prince of Wales, is Chambers’ first published book and the first European work to present Chinese design and architecture as a subject worthy of serious study. The work had an immediate impact in France and Germany but only after Chambers' death did the book come into its own in England as a model for Chinese decoration. Perhaps the most famous example of later Chinoiserie is the whimsical decoration of the Brighton Pavilion, remodelled by John Nash (who had been a resident of Carmarthen and designed several buildings for the area).

This image reproduced above shows the remodelled Chinese Gallery at Brighton Pavilion and was drawn by A. Pugin (father of the famous architect A.W.N Pugin) for Edward Brayley’s Illustrations of Her Majesty's Palace at Brighton; formerly the Pavillion (London, 1838).