Archive for the Chinoiserie Category

Imperial Chinese Robes, the source of chinoiserie fantasies

Posted in 19th Century, Chinese Imperial Robes, Chinoiserie, Qing dynasty on February 19, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I recently quipped that I preferred Chinoiserie to the source; having stumbled upon this reminder concerning the ongoing exhibition Imperial Chinese Robes at the V&A, I realized what a foolish statement that was.

Since childhood, spending countless hours admiring the chromo-litho “scraps” in my Nana’s Victorian scrapbooks, I was particularly drawn to the bright and exotic Chinois images. I believe my current taste is still heavily influenced by this extravagant use of pattern and color.The V&A show, focusing on the court dress of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) provides plenty of happy bursts of aesthetic joy.

As the show ends February 27th I recommend that all my friends abroad pop over and buy me a postcard or two.

Until then, a sampling of some of the wonders.

Emperor’s Winter Court Robe


Kangxi period

on loan as much of the show is from the Palace Museum née The Forbidden City

more info

Please no griping about the fur, I am a card carrying vegetarian, working hard to spread the anti-fur gospel, BUT still this is a magical garment.

Imperial concubine’s winter court hat

more info

Imperial concubine’s festive robe


Qianlong period

festive indeed!

Woman’s shoes


Guangxu period

a form of Chinois Rational Dress as Manchu woman did not bind their feet, more info

Emperor’s winter court robe


Jiaqing period

You must admit the Qing dynasty handled  harsh winter with great panache, so much nicer then the offerings at L.L Bean .

Empress’ festive headdress


Guangxu period

more info on this stunning object

Emperor’s helmet


Qianlong period

more info

Emperor’s summer court robe


Xianfeng period



I think I must rush over to our little Chinatown here in LA to satisfy my Chinois itch with some tawdry bauble.

Los Angeles Chinatown

Until then Rose must wear her own silk court robe, pug-dogs are Chinese after all.

Enjoy the long weekend Dear Reader,

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Chung Ling Soo, the Marvelous Chinese Conjurer

Posted in 19th cent., 20th century, Chinoiserie, Chung Ling Foo, Koekkoek, Madame Pamita, Orientalist, Silent Film on November 17, 2010 by babylonbaroque

At the turn of the 20th century an exotic Chung Ling Soo was enchanting Western audiences with the  mysteries of the East.

Chung Ling Soo, with the lovely “slant eyed maiden” Suee Seen were a smash captivating crowds with smoke and mirrors.

But behind the veil of fame and mystery a different truth could be discovered.

For behind the Orientalist facade lurked William Ellsworth Robinson ( 1861-1918), the Asian beauty by his side?, his wife Dottie.

In May of 1900, William E. Robinson took up the persona of Chung Ling Soo, so sincere was he in maintaining this charade that apparently he never spoke in English again. At least not until his last words, but we’ll get to that…

Quite a ‘stache he had to sacrifice for chinoiserie splendor!

The decision to adopt the stage name Chung Ling Soo was quite deliberate.

At the time there was an actual Chinaman, a renown magician, Ching Ling Foo (1854-1922)


So great was the fame of Ching Ling Foo, the REAL Chinaman ( I know it is terribly confusing), that Thomas Edison felt the need to expose his trickery.

Perhaps part of Robinson/Chung Ling’s plan was to “coat-tail” on Ching’s genuine fame. I don’t know, but a rivalry was set across Europe.

Both seemed to benefit from the competition, Chung Ling Soo engaging in flashier and flashier acts.

One such act was a macabre twist on the Boxer Rebellion.



Johannes Hermanus Barend Koekkoek



The final performance of this bizarre trick would be at London’s Wood Green Empire, March 23rd 1918.

Something went terribly awry, instead of the trick giving the allusion of a gun shot, an actual bullet escape.

This ended Chung Ling Soo’s vow to not betray his true identity; his last words in his mother tongue:

“Oh my God. Something happened. Lower the curtain.”

A true showman to the end!

Much of the myth around Chung Ling Soo is difficult to verify, I was unable to gather info concerning Dottie the “slant eyed maiden” ( I can’t believe they got away with saying that!) for example. But I did stumble upon this silly clip narrated by the wonderful Boris Karloff, it’s great fun.

I hope you have enjoyed this post, my dear friend Madame Pamita, Sideshow Entertainer Extraordinaire suggested i might find Chung Ling Soo of interest.

She was correct.

Thank you Madame Pamita.


Pirate Jenny… I mean Madame Pamita.

Thank you, enjoy the week.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque


The Sun King By Way of Cathay;the chinoiserie tapestries of Beauvais

Posted in 17th century, Beauvais tapestries, Bourbon monarchy, Chinoiserie, Francois Boucher, Jean Berain, Louis XIV, peacocks on September 11, 2010 by babylonbaroque

My friend Eleanor Schapa recently posted a commemoration of the Sun King’s birthday (Sept 5th) on her Face Book page; I am ashamed to say I had forgotten.

I will attempt to make amends.

(Young Louis in possibly the gayest costume ever!)

Louis XIV , aged 14, in the role of Apollo, the Celestial Sovereign.

A role young Louis would cultivate throughout his lifetime.

In celebrating the Sun King’s birth, my friend Eleanor, a maven of the decorative arts, listed many of Louis’s attributes. Amongst the many contributions she made mention of the Gobelins tapestries, in particular the Chinoiserie series. Ordinarily Eleanor and I are in complete agreement, but she found them to be unattractive.

I felt a need to re-examine them.

I am NOT a maven concerning anything frankly. I have a broad range of interest and have been familiar with “The Emperor of China” series for some time. From my brief research they seemed to have been of Beauvais manufacture, Gobelins being solely royal production. I’m guessing they were part of Louis frenzied effort to sell the Franco “brand”.

I must say, I still find them exciting and quite beautiful, sorry Eleanor.

“Emperor Sailing”

from the “The Story of the Emperor of China”

after design by Guy-Louis Vernansel


wool, silk, gilt

Art Institute of Chicago

I have always admired the decidedly Western dragons, indifferent to Chinese conventions.

Another example from the “Historie du Roi de Chine “series, further explores the mystery of Cathay.

le Astronomes

from “il historie du roi de Chine”

after designs by Jean -Baptiste Belin de Fontenay


Manufactured by Beauvais 18th cent.


How the hell do you not love that peacock?

Again that very Western dragon, like Brighton Pavilion.

Of course you can’t speak of Louis’s patronage without mention of the great Jean Bérain; his seemingly  inexhaustible imagination created some of the most enchanting grotesquerie ever.

Devotion to  Pan

design by Jean Bérain the Elder


Louis XIV achieved his goal in creating a seemingly eternal desire for French goods.

This tapestry, ca. 1770, is as desirable as it was in the century in which it was designed, as in the century when it was manufactured (1770), and today.

Fashion that is truly timeless.


from the “Portieries of the Gods”

(love that name, as if Olympus had a private decorator)

after designs by Claude Audran le Jeun


ca. 1770 Gobelins


Of course my friend Eleanor had a point, when it comes to Chinoiserie; at it’s most graceful, few could compete with Boucher.

first in the series (of six)

Le Tenture Chinois

(Chinois Wall Hangings)

after designs by Francois Boucher


Louis XV’s Beauvais , 1758


All in all, I think Louis XIV’s take on Chinoiserie is typical of most of the Baroque under his direction. It all appears to be reflect his own splendor, the Chinois series merely a way for Louis to play act the role of an Absolute Mandarin.

Louis did  narcissism well.

Happy Birthday your Majesty!

b. September 5th 1638

d. September 1st 1715

Dieu Sauve le Roi,

Dieu Sauve le Roi,

Dieu Sauve le Roi!

Recquiscat in Pace Alexander Mc Queen

Posted in Chinoiserie, Fashion-art on February 11, 2010 by babylonbaroque

such a dream, glamour,a frenzy of form and color,

wit and madness,

attitude and verve,

ingenuity and audacity,

and ravishing mad mad beauty.

I loved the man as an artist, he was so much more then a fashion designer.

I trembled to enter the showroom on Melrose, ridiculous, now i must pay homage, admire the divine Lobster Claw, awe at the snakeskins, take in the last traces of his talents.

Deeply sad, he will be missed.


New paths

Posted in Chinoiserie with tags on August 26, 2009 by babylonbaroque

As business has slowed down considerably, I find myself trying to find new, truer, means of expression. When working with a designer or client, so often my outlandish motifs are squashed. I wish to use a tawdry arsenic green, we opt for a tasteful jade.

Little things, nothing earthshaking , but a certain lack of autonomy. I would like to take this down time and explore my loves. One such love is all things Venetian,   I love the color, the broad brush strokes, the outlandish  marbling, almost crude, almost garish, purples and greens and warm ochres with pink, too much, too beautiful.

I want to try my hand at that, headboards, settles, table tops, and firescreens, perhaps a sweet little puppet theatre.

This is a small little panel, Mars by way of Cathay.

The work is slow going without deadline, money, or most importantly a client’s expectation. But I have a headboard cut, I am almost finished of a tabletop, and i have ideas, lots of ideas.