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Winter 2018 Decorative Fair Foyer Display: ‘The Silk Route’

Since the 1600s, European interiors have embraced the exoticism of Eastern design.  The desire for uncommon goods to display in our homes drove merchants to undertake fortune-changing journeys to the East, near and far. Caravans carried silks, lacquer, porcelain, metalwork, precious stones and spices from far-flung China, Nepal, Tibet, central Asia and Persia, whilst ships wound their way around Indonesia, India and Arabia.

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Pair of Dutch Delft yellow vases and covers, C19th

Our foyer display will highlight how Eastern design has infiltrated our everyday.  Furniture, fabrics and objects from, and influenced by, the orient will be for sale, styled to showcase this broad aspect of decoration that has permeated our design heritage.  All items are drawn from among the 150 specialist antiques, art and 20th century design dealers taking part in the Fair.

Fabulous rugs, woven silk textiles and brocades, blue and white porcelain, decorative lacquer work and metalware, have long been the epitome of luxury.  Tales of souks, bazaars and oases entered our imagination as the objects that travelled from them entered our homes and art. European manufacturers learned to emulate and imitate these ‘oriental’ skills: Delftware, japanned and faux bamboo furniture, printed Lancashire cottons and London silks. Chinoiserie became part of our design repertoire.

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Rug from the oasis town of Khotan on the silk route, late C19th

In the Georgian era great furniture makers added orientalism to their design books; the Prince Regent’s Pavilion of fantasy in Brighton cemented the architectural fashion; in Stoke the potteries developed transfer printing and we took willow pattern ‘china’ to our hearts.

With 1990s minimalism came a Zen-like approach to the Silk Route; sand and stone neutrals punctured by contemplative Buddhas and a nod to colour with Chinese cabinets, floating flowers in lacquered bowls and the ethereal hue of simple celadon ceramics.

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Chinese export cabinet on English period stand, with English chinoiserie decoration added later

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Pair Chinese ceramic elephant stools

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Hexagonal Moroccan / North African polychrome divan table, c1920, with traditional Arabic style decoration