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Culture news
Chinese export art in the Hermitage
10.17.2003 14:19

Wash-hand set, 1700-1750-s The exhibition of the Chinese export art in the Menshikov Palace explores cultural contacts between China and the West. It showcases over 200 exhibits, including jewelry, metalware, carved bone, porcelain, wallpapers, fabrics, drawings and "applied" paintings, showing cultural contacts between China and Western Europe, South East Asia and Russia.Chinese export art was created by Chinese masters for foreign customers and domestic market, gaining popularity throughout the world. The development of export art was encouraged by the Europeans coming to China, commercial companies and missionaries.

The first Europeans who came to China in the 16th century were the Portuguese. In 1565, Spain established trade relations with China. In the early 17th century, the Netherlands started to play a leading role in the Chinese trade. In the late 17th century, commercial relations with China were established by England and France, in the 18th century, by Denmark, Sweden and Prussia. Chinese goods supplied to Europe by East India Companies had a stunning effect on the Europeans.

Popularity of Chinese art reached its peak in the middle - second half of the 18th century. The exhibition explores various production centers and techniques used by Chinese masters. Missionaries’ activities are represented by a portrait of the diplomat Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) by an unknown European painter, books including a Bible in Chinese, rolls, an album of etchings showing episodes of the military campaign of emperor Ch’ien-Lung in East Turkestan, carved ivory and dishes with scenes from the Gospels. Creations of the 17th - 18th centuries show the succession of European styles, from baroque through rococo to classicism, in porcelain, painted enamels, carved bone and metalware. Some export pieces of the 17th and 18th centuries express the perception of Europeans and Western art by the Chinese (painted enamels and porcelain).

The picture becomes different in the 19th century. Creations inspired by foreign influences may not always be traced to a specific European style or technique, though in some branches of decorative art, for example metalware, the influence can still be traced. Since the middle of the 19th century, special attention was paid to the perfection of technique.

Russia also had its period of fascination with China and her culture, art and philosophy. “Chinese” cabinets, which became popular during the reign of Peter I, were decorated with Chinese porcelain, lacquers, fabrics and painted wallpaper whose specimens are showed in the exhibit. Chinese art found its way to Russia via the Dutch and English East India Companies and as diplomatic gifts, showed by the silver casket of the 17th century and jewelry of the 18th century.

A number of exhibits had distinguished owners, such as the blue-silk schlafrock of Peter I, silver filigree boxes from the dresser set of Catherine II, and the exquisite carved ivory and tortoise shell boxes of Elizabeth Alekseyevna, the consort of Alexander I.

News source: www.hermitage.ru
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