Questions of influence

Illustration from Johan Nieuhof’s ‘Embassy’ (1665 and subsequent editions). ©Edizioni White Star

In prepration for a talk that I am giving tonight I have been looking at the printed sources for chinoiserie. It is often very difficult to pinpoint the exact source for a particular design, but every now and again you come upon an exact match.

Chinoiserie tapestry at Belton House, Lincolnshire, commissioned from the Soho workshop in 1691 (acquired by the National Trust with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1984). ©NTPL/Graham Challifour.

The illustrated book about China by Johan Nieuhof, entitled The Embassy … to … the Present Emperor of China and first published in 1665, seems to have been particularly influential. You can find echoes of the palaces, pagodas, trees and figures depicted there in all kinds of decorative art in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century.

But in the case of the bullock-drawn carriage shown above the motif was copied almost literally in the lower left-hand quadrant of an early 1690s Soho tapestry at Belton House.

Sections of Soho tapestry hung in the Tapestry Room at the Vyne, Hampshire. They were originally commissioned for the house in about 1720. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The Soho tapestries at Belton are rather faded, but the ones at The Vyne have retained more of their rich dark colours. They were originally meant to evoke East Asian lacquer.

Design for a fireplace and wall treatment by Daniel Marot, c. 1700.

The architect Daniel Marot depicted them in the prints of interiors that he published in about 1700. And if you look closely you can see another direct match: the pavilion shown three quarters of the way up in the tapestry in the Marot print also appears in the top left-hand corner of the tapestry at The Vyne.

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