Degrees of exoticism

The state bedroom at Erddig. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

I previously showed the red japanned cabinet at Erddig, but there is more chinoiserie at that extraordinary house. Right next to the cabinet is the state bed from about 1720 with its Chinese embroidered hangings.

Detail of the state bed, showing the Chinese embroidered silk and the gilded woodwork probably by John Belchier. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The state bed was probably made by the London cabinetmakers John Hutt and John Belchier. It is a rare surviving example of a lit à la duchesse, a type of bed with a very deep tester introduced to England by William III’s architect Daniel Marot.

Craftsmen like Hutt and Belchier did not hesitate to combine east Asian and English elements. But at the same time their work shows great respect for and fascination with east Asian art and design.

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper in the state bedroom, installed in the 1770s. ©NTPL/John Hammond

In the 1770s Philip Yorke I, the great-nephew of John Meller, and his heiress wife Elizabeth added another layer of chinoiserie to the house. It was they who moved the state bed upstairs and added the Chinese wallpaper to what now became the state bedroom.

The Chinese Room. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Philip Yorke I also created a ‘Chinese room’ for the display of porcelain, which was decorated with Chinese export paintings of crafts and trades.

One of the late-eighteenth-century Chinese export paintings in the Chinese Room, illustrating the pounding of rice. The printed border is European. ©NTPL/John Hammond

These pictures are meticulously realistic, and yet they are used mainly for decorative effect. Even though trade with China had increased hugely during the eighteenth century, the country had become more rather than less remote in European eyes.

Whereas around 1700 China was seen as an example to European nations, towards the end of the eighteenth century it was regarded as a country almost outside of history, where nothing ever changed.

3 Responses to “Degrees of exoticism”

  1. style court Says:

    Extraordinary indeed. All breathtaking.

  2. Barbara Says:

    Lovely close-up of a lit à la duchesse design…

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Courtney, Barbara, thanks. Yes the testers of such beds had to be supported with chains from the ceiling.

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