Friday, April 3, 2009

Book Review: Chinoiseries

Being an artist and a book lover, I have amassed a huge collection of beautiful books that I use for inspiration. This book called "Chinoiseries" is a reprint of a limited-edition collector's volume of forty-two stunning watercolour illustrations of "fantastical pavilions, picturesque pagodas and luxurious tents" in the Chinoiserie style of Europe.

This style was popular during the 18th century. Included in the book are several pagodas, pavilions and other structures which were commissioned by Marie Antoinette for Versailles including:

Pavilion of Diana for Trianon 1774 (unbuilt)
Chinese House for Trianon 1774 (unbuilt)
Chinese Rain Shelter for Trianon 1774 (unbuilt)
Carrousel at Trianon 1776 (destroyed)
Pagoda for Trianon 1777 (unbuilt)

Each illustration is rendered in exquisite detail in architectural elevation. Information is included on the person who commissioned it, the architect, the year it was designed, whether or not it was built, what happened to it after construction, and other tidbits of information.

The cover illustration on this stunning book is of a Chinese Tent for the Trianon commissioned by Marie Antoinette in 1780. From the atelier of architect Jean-Baptiste Pillement, this simple wooden structure was covered with canvas painted with birds and florals and decorated with ostrich plumes. The project was never built.

In the words of the authors, "Chinoiserie is Western architecture's equivalent of plain, simple joy." If you can find this stunning book, the images of these whimsical structures will, without a doubt, make you smile.

Title: Chinoiseries
Authors: Bernd H. Dams and Andrew Zega
Publisher: Rizzoli, New York 2008
Category: Non-fiction, architecture
Price: US$60, Canada $77