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Orientalism in Architecture and Decorative Arts

Orientalism in Architecture and Decorative Arts

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will examine the Moresque style of architecture in the context of Orientalism.

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Tutorial

An overview of Orientalism's influence on European architecture and the decorative arts.

Video Transcription

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Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about Orientalism in architecture and decorative arts. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the stylistic elements of the Moresque and Chinoiserie, and identify examples of Orientalism in architecture and the decorative arts.

The key terms as always are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is Moresque, a synonym for an Islamic decorative style of arabesque or interlaced patterns observed in Mannerism. Moorish, relating to the Muslim people of North Africa, also a style of Muslim architecture in Spain. Minarets, a tower attached to a mosque calling people to prayer. Arched window, a feature of Islamic architecture where the window is characterized by having a rounded top.

Chinoiserie, an 18th century style of western European art that incorporates the influence of Chinese decorative elements. Tin-glazed pottery, pottery covered with a shiny white glaze to make it resemble Chinese porcelain. Decorative arts, a 19th century art movement that rejected Realism, using the convention of representing things through symbols or signs. Delftware, a type of tin-glazed pottery produced in the Netherlands from the 16th to the 18th centuries. And Islam, the religious faith of Muslims with the basic principle of absolute submission to Allah.

The big idea for today is that Orientalism in architecture and the decorative arts typically refers to a Moresque stylistic influence in architecture and the practice of chinoiserie in the decorative arts. The artwork and architecture that we'll see today dates from between 1742 and 1909. We'll be traveling to Sofia, Bulgaria; Paris, France; and Vienna, Austria today.

Orientalism refers to the influence of the Middle Eastern and Asian, specifically China and India, aesthetic on the art and architecture of Europe. Now, Moresque refers to a specific style used by the Moors, a Muslim culture that existed in northern Africa and in parts of Spain. Now, elements of Moorish architecture were borrowed from Islamic architecture, which in turn borrowed elements from Byzantine churches.

A good example of Moorish architecture can be seen in the Moorish Revival style of the Sofia Synagogue, which is a Jewish temple in Sofia, Bulgaria. Now, Moorish architectural elements including the Moorish arch window; a keyhole-shaped arch, as you can see here; the striped red and white motif that is reminiscent of a very similar motif in the Great Mosque of Cordova, Spain, for example; the squashed dome or onion-shaped dome; and the ornamentation styles one would see on the inside of Byzantine churches. Now, Moorish elements like the towers or minarets may not necessarily be apparent here, but can be seen in other Moorish or Islamic architecturally inspired buildings, like the Royal Pavilion of Great Britain.

So Moresque architecture within the context of Orientalism can be seen as influencing the decorative artwork of the northern Mannerists and religious artifacts of Christianity, particularly in the implied symbolism and the use of arabesque vegetal pattern motifs that became particularly influential during the mid 1800s. Along with this, the idea of chinoiserie developed, a French word essentially meaning Chinaesque, or China-like. chinoiserie in the decorative arts was extremely popular. We'll take a look at an example in just a moment.

It extended into painting, such as in paintings depicting imaginary scenes of the Orient interior and exterior environments, such as this Rococo painting by Francois Boucher, depicting his interpretation of a Chinese garden, as well as into landscape arts and architecture of English gardens, such as the Chinese Pagoda at the Royal Botanical Gardens in England. Even modern-day dinnerware was influenced by chinoiserie. Think of it every time your mother asks you to break up the good china at Thanksgiving.

Chinoiserie ceramics extended beyond dinnerware and tea cups. It included pottery as well, including Delftware, which is a specific type of tin-glazed pottery from the Netherlands, and imitation lacquerware. Now, imitation is the key word here. These were not authentic examples of Chinese goods, but rather faithful imitations of Chinese productions with Oriental-inspired motifs.

A production facility in Vienna was one the largest producers of this type of chinoiserie pottery, like this example from 1799. Artificial lacquerware was intended to look like real lacquerware. True lacquer refers to a resinous secretion of the Lac insect, certain species which are endemic to Asia. These are beautiful imitations of Chinese pottery, using a resin that produces a similar finish to true lacquer. It was a very popular form of pottery until the closing of the Vienna factory in 1864.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives again and see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms?

Can you describe the stylistic elements of the Moresque and chinoiserie? And can you identify examples of Orientalism in architecture and the decorative arts? Once again, the big idea for today is that Orientalism in architecture and the decorative arts typically refers to a Moresque stylistic influence in architecture and the practice of chinoiserie in the decorative arts.

And there you go. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Orientalism in Architecture and Decorative Arts"

Overview

(0:00-2:18) Introduction, Key Terms, BIG IDEA

(2:19-2:43) When in History? and Geography Lesson

(2:44-3:55) Sofia Synagogue 

(3:56-5:01) The Chinese Garden

(5:02-6:00) Vienna Porcelain Jug

(6:01-6:41) Review, Wrap-up, Ending

Key Terms

Moresque

A synonym for an Islamic decorative style of arabesque or interlaced patterns observed in Mannerism.

Moorish

Relating to the Muslim people of North Africa. Also a style of Muslim architecture in Spain.

Minarets

A tower attached to a mosque calling people to prayer.

Arched Window

A feature of Islamic architecture where the window is characterized by having a rounded top. 

Chinoiserie

An 18th-century style of western European art that incorporates the influence of Chinese decorative elements.

Tin-Glazed Pottery

Pottery covered in a shiny white glaze to make it resemble Chinese porcelain. 

Decorative Arts

A 19th-century art movement that rejected Realism, using the convention of representing things through symbols or signs.

Delftware

A type of tin-glazed pottery produced in the Netherlands from the 16th to the 18th-centuries. 

Islam

The religious faith of Muslims with the basic principle of absolute submission to Allah.

Citations

Sofia Synagogue; Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sofia_Synagogue_11c.jpg; The Chinese Garden; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Le_Jardin_chinois_%28detail%29_by_Fran%C3%A7ois_Boucher.jpg Vienna Porcelain Jug; Creative Commons (I, Sailko): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Museo_delle_porcellane_di_Firenze,_porcellane_viennesi_a_cineserie,_1799,_02.JPG; Image of Synagogue Interior Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Inside_Sofia_Synagogue.jpg; Image of Synagogue Dome Exterior Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Synagogue_in_Sofia_20090406_003.JPG

 

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Moresque

    A synonym for an Islamic decorative style of arabesque or interlaced patterns observed in Mannerism.

  • Moorish

    Relating to the Muslim people of North Africa. Also a style of Muslim architecture in Spain.

  • Minarets

    A tower attached to a mosque calling people to prayer.

  • Arched Window

    A feature of Islamic architecture where the window is characterized by having a rounded top.

  • Chinoiserie

    An 18th-century style of western European art that incorporates the influence of Chinese decorative elements.

  • Tin-Glazed Pottery

    Pottery covered in a shiny white glaze to make it resemble Chinese porcelain.

  • Decorative Arts

    A 19th-century art movement that rejected Realism, using the convention of representing things through symbols or signs.

  • Delftware

    A type of tin-glazed pottery produced in the Netherlands from the 16th to the 18th-centuries.

  • Islam

    The religious faith of Muslims with the basic principle of absolute submission to Allah.