The Linnell cabinet at Kedleston mentioned in the previous post, topped with its neat row of miniature chinoiserie pavilions, reminded me how the motif of the ‘pagoda’ or Chinese-style pavilion spread through the various decorative arts, in a process almost resembling natural selection.
Pagoda-style buildings were originally copied from illustrations in books on China and from Chinese porcelain and lacquer, and were adapted for European tapestries, japanning, ceramics and silver. The original models were soon forgotten as the ‘chinoiserie’ style took on a life of its own.
Then from the 1730s English garden pavilions, too, began to take on Chinese shapes.
Furniture soon followed suit, with the mid-eighteenth-century seeing a proliferation of pagodas in variety of shapes and media.
In true Darwinian style the pagoda adapted itself to the different circumstances of the Regency and Victorian periods.
But occasionally natural selection in the arts goes into reverse, as in the case of the pagoda at Cliveden. This is an 1860s copy of a pavilion that was originally erected in in the early 1780s in the park of the Château de Romainville, on the outskirts of Paris, and which was in turn based on an illustration in William Chambers’s Designs of Chinese Buildings of 1757.
More about a snuffbox that depicts Romainville and its anglo-chinois gardens can be seen on the Wallace Collection website.