I have just been having an interesting conversation with Courtney Barnes over at Style Court about issues of femininity and masculinity in design and decoration. Courtney made the perceptive comment that, at least in recent times, chinoiserie or Chinese-style decoration has been seen as ‘feminine’, whereas japonisme or the taste for Japanese design is considered more something ‘for the guys’.
I am fascinated by how the meaning of certain motifs and styles changes over time, and indeed how feminine and masculine identity is expressed in different periods.
Shown here is an example of ‘masculine’ chinoiserie, a silver monteith at Erddig, Wrexham, with chased decoration in the pseudo-Chinese style popular in Britain in the 1680s. Monteiths were used as punchbowls or to cool glasses and as such were an accoutrement of male conviviality. In Restoration-period Britain chinoiserie seems to have been ‘for the guys’ as well as for the ladies.