Archive for the ‘Indonesian’ Category

Perpetual amazement

January 24, 2011

The Duchess's Private Closet at Ham House, Surrey, showing the part-Javavese tea table, a Chinese porcelain vase and chairs inspired by Chinese Coromandel lacquer. ©NTPL/John Hammond

One thing that always surprises me about the phenomenon of chinoiserie is that people in the eighteenth century were so extremely keen to use East Asian elements in their houses and gardens. China  was so much more remote and incomprehensible then than it is to us now, and yet Asian products were used to decorate the most intimate domestic spaces.

The seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English tended to be virulently anti-catholic, and yet they were happy to embrace objects from a culture that was not just non-Protestant, but entirely non-Christian.

The west front of Shugborough, Staffordshire, by Nicholas Dall, with the Chinese House (left) and several classical monuments. ©NTPL/John Hammond

And what continues to amaze me as well is the flexibility with which chinoiserie garden pavilions were mixed with classical pavilions and monuments without any sense of incongruity, as for instance at Shugborough, Stowe and Stourhead. In some ways our mid-eighteenth-century ancestors were much more broad-minded than we are.

I am aware of all the usual answers: that people loved the beauty and glamour of lacquer, porcelain and silk, and that they misinterpteted the meaning of the motifs to suit their preconceptions, etc. etc. – but that still doesn’t entirely take away my astonishment.

More about the deployment of chinoiserie in the English garden here (pp. 9 & 10).


July 16, 2010

One of Charles Wade's Indonesian theatre masks at Snowshill Manor. ©NTPL/Stuart Cox

A recent post about Indonesian textiles by Courtney Barnes over at her Style Court blog made me think about the Indonesian masks at Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire.

©NTPL/Stuart Cox

They are part of the collection of Charles Wade (1883-1956), who trained as an architect, but who really came into his own as an artist, craftsman and collector.

The South front of Snowshill Manor seen from the garden. ©NTPL/Nick Meers

Wade bought Snowshill in 1919 and gradually transformed the old Cotswold manor house into an Aladdin’s Cave.

The Seraphim room. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

He gave the rooms evocative names, such as Seraphim, Mizzen and A Hundred Wheels. Wade and his friends organised amateur theatricals in the house using items from the collection as costumes and props, and with candles and a smoky fire for extra effect.

©NTPL/Stuart Cox

Wade’s collecting was motivated by a love of craftsmanship. The scope of his collection expanded from British objects to include items from southern Europe and West and East Asia. 

Javanese masks representing the evil spirit Rangda. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Wade gave Snowshill to the National Trust in 1951.