Global stories in domestic spaces

Chinese ivory model of boat, at Osterley Park (NT771742.2). ©National Trust Collections

Chinese ivory model of boat, at Osterley Park (NT771742.2). ©National Trust Collections

Osterley Park recently hosted an oral history event for local Hounslow residents. There are significant Sikh and Tamil communities living near Osterley, and the event sought to explore the connections between their heritage and the collection at Osterley, which is rich in Asian objects.

Japanese lacquer cabinet, early 18th century, on an English giltwood stand, at Osterley (NT771821) ©National Trust Collections

Japanese lacquer cabinet, early 18th century, on an English giltwood stand, at Osterley (NT771821) ©National Trust Collections

Participants learned about the Child family of Osterley, who were deeply involved in the trade between Britain and Asian in the 17th and 18th century. In addition people were encouraged to bring in objects that had a personal or cultural significance, and to share their thoughts and feelings about them.

Indian embroidered silk valance (NT772441) on the bed in Mrs Child's Bedroom at Osterley. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Indian embroidered silk valance (NT772441) on the bed in Mrs Child’s Bedroom at Osterley. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Objects can appear strange and exotic, of course, and the lure of the unknown seems to have been one of the reasons behind the popularity of Asian goods in 18th-century Britain.

Massive Chinese porcelain lidded vase, mid 18th century (NT771446.1) at Osterley. ©National Trust Collections

Massive Chinese porcelain lidded vase, mid 18th century (NT771446.1) at Osterley. ©National Trust Collections

Equally, the collection at Osterley demonstrates how people try to ‘own’ the unknown, both literally by collecting exotic objects, and symbolically by having their coats of arms put on them and by fitting them into familiar decorative schemes.

Mandarin duck from the Osterley menagery, in William Hayes's 'Portraits of Rare and Curious Birds and their Descriptions from the Menagery of Osterley Park', 1794. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Mandarin duck from the Osterley menagery, in William Hayes’s ‘Portraits of Rare and Curious Birds and their Descriptions from the Menagery of Osterley Park’, 1794. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Oral history events such as this one are part of the Global Stories in Domestic Spaces project, sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and masterminded by the East India Company at Home research team.

One of a set of Chinese porcelain dishes decorated with the Child coat of arms (NT771442), early 18th century with later additions, at Osterley. ©National Trust Collections

One of a set of Chinese porcelain dishes decorated with the Child coat of arms (NT771442), early 18th century with later additions, at Osterley. ©National Trust Collections

This event will also feed into the exhibition Trappings of Trade: A Domestic Story of the East India Company which will be on view at Osterley between July and November this year.

4 Responses to “Global stories in domestic spaces”

  1. style court Says:

    Emile, I finally have Giorgio Riello’s book, “Cotton,” and, to your global point, I’m looking at a piece of Indian chintz with less common, river-like imagery that seems drawn from Japanese lacquer.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes isn’t it fascinating how even then trade was mixing everything up. I was just researching some reputedly Javanese tables at Ham House and Dyrham Park for a forthcoming article, and the same is evident there, with a very complex web of lacquer production and trade across east Asian in the 16th and 17th centuries.

  3. mary Says:

    The effort to make 17th and 18th century art and decorations relevant to 21st century England is to be applauded. Personally, I have incorporated so many global objects, antique and new, into my personal aesthetic. Asia was a principal source of innovative design during the 16th through 18th centuries and we are still drawing upon that source today.
    Thanks for all of your posts.
    Mary

  4. deana Says:

    I love this thread and have been thinking about it a lot lately as foreign products influence the cuisine of western cultures (like ketchup).

    On the furniture front, I have a bizarre 17th c. standing cabinet that no one can really place since it seems to have been made in Great Britain but decorated with ivory birds and flowers in the East. I have often wondered about where it has been — whether it happened at home or in its travels with a family. I do love objects with stories.

    I agree with Mary, exotic influences have done much to energize design over the centuries. Beautiful objects, btw.

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