The Swan Circle

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The harmful vogue of Chinoiserie

18th Century Digressions, Occupations & Trades, The Georgian Home 1 Comment »

                                                                           Chinoiserie

 'Chinese Baubles'

The growth of my passion for all things to do with the eighteenth century coincided with the success of retailers such as Past Times. Leafing through their gift catalogues whilst sipping from a glass of Pinot Grigio became a happy distraction and a moment to slip away from the present. The displays of decorative arts or chinoiserie wallpaper helped complete a fantasy that I could have my entire home ornamented in a vogue that reached its peak between 1750 to 1765.
   For many an eighteenth century wife, the style seemed to become a de rigeur home accessory for the fashionable much to the frustration of one commentator: 

 

Through the ignorant taste of the present times, ornamental China has become a universal fashion, and the veriest tradesman's wife within the weekly bills, would look down upon herself a downright Tramontane, unless she had an urn or a Mandarin on her chimney-piece. This pernicious custom has been a great loss to our carvers and dealers in looking-glass, who formerly supplied the ornamental part of our chimneys, and by that article alone, employed a prodigious number of hands, whose labour was extremely serviceable to the community; this circumstance, therefore is a fresh reason why the East India Company should be laid under some immediate and salutary restraints, as nothing can justify our allowing any set of adventurers an exclusive right to prejudice any manufacture of the kingdom”.
London Chronicle

 The writer continued to express his concern that thousands of pounds derived from the sale of such objects would go east to the Indian Princes, who would “acquire millions to squander on some European instrument of tyranny and murder”, while our industries are oppressed for the importation of “Chinese baubles”.
   These words were written as the fashion began to wane and décorative styles moved towards neoclassicism. The chinoiserie vogue faded and the impetus for the great British industrial engine was about to move up a gear and place these islands at the centre of new modes of manufacturing.

Catherine Palace

An extraordinary tale of survival at sea

18th Century Digressions, Military & Naval 1 Comment »

Sailors praying after the Battle of the Nile

Glasgow, December 25. Copy of a letter from the Mate of an East-India ship to his wife in Cartsdyke, near Greenock.

My Dear,

   "This is to acquaint you that I am yet living; and I do think there is not on earth a more remarkable instance of the great mercy and goodness of God, than has been shewn in my preservation. I arrived in India the 15th of August, 1753 [?], and agreed to go Mate along with Capt.Hugh Kennedy, an old Comrade of mine in Virginia. I will be particular in my first voyage, and I hope you will chuse what follows to be put in the News-Papers, that all concerned may have a true and impartial account of the fate of their friends and relations.

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