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Oil painting - A Chinese Empress in a Chariot (one of eleven panels with Chinoiserie decoration)
  • A Chinese Empress in a Chariot (one of eleven panels with Chinoiserie decoration)
    Robinson, Robert
  • Enlarge image

A Chinese Empress in a Chariot (one of eleven panels with Chinoiserie decoration)

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1696 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Robinson, Robert (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Presented by Art Fund

  • Museum number:

    P.6-1954

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56c, case WW

Object Type
This is one of a set of 11 Chinoiserie panels (Museum nos. P.6 to 16-1954) that was acquired by the Museum in 1954. It is not known which house they were originally intended for, but they relate closely to a set of similar panels painted in 1696 for a house in Botolph Lane, London.

People
Very little is known about the painter and printmaker Robert Robinson and not much of his work survives, apart from the two sets of panels. The London panels are a mixture of Chinese and Peruvian scenes, whereas the set now in the Museum is mainly Chinese in inspiration. The panels' dramatic quality may be attributable to Robinson's work as a scene painter for the theatre.

Subjects Depicted
Throughout the 17th century goods from East Asia were highly fashionable. However, these painted panels are one of the earliest manifestations of Chinoiserie. The term denotes purely decorative fantasies produced by European artists and based roughly on East Asian themes, as opposed to imitation of true Chinese forms in such techniques as lacquer work. In these panels all manner of whimsical grotesques are mingled with reminiscences of Chinese, Tartar, and Indian themes.

Physical description

Oil painted panel with Chinoiserie decoration, showing a fantastic scene of a Chinese Empress in a canopied three-wheeled chariot, being drawn along by an elephant-like creature, in a mountainous landscape.

Place of Origin

England (painted)

Date

ca. 1696 (made)

Artist/maker

Robinson, Robert (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

oil on panel

Dimensions

Height: 216.5 cm estimate, Width: 79 cm estimate, Depth: 4 cm

Object history note

Given by the National Art Collections Fund, 1954
From a group of at least eleven panels, painted in England for an unidentified house.

Historical context note

It is not known which house this set of panels was originally intended for, but they relate closely to a set of similar panels, which were painted in 1696 for a house at 5 Botolph Lane, in the City of London and removed to Sir John Cass's Foundation Primary School, Aldgate, London, in 1906. Very little is known about the painter Robert Robinson and not much of his work survives, apart from these two sets of panels. Robinson's work anticipates the mania for Chinoiserie in England by 30 years or more. The Botolph Lane panels are a mixture of Chinese and Peruvian scenes, whereas the set now in the Museum is mainly Chinese in inspiration. Throughout the 17th century goods from the Far East were highly fashionable. However, these painted panels are one of the earliest manifestations of chinoiserie, i.e. purely decorative fantasies by European artists, based roughly upon Far Eastern themes, as opposed to imitation of true Chinese forms such as lacquer work. In the V&A panels all kinds of whimsical grotesques are mingled with reminiscences of Chinese, Tartar, and Indian themes.

Descriptive line

Oil painted panel with Chinoiserie decoration, [one of a set of 11] showing a fantastic scene of a Chinese Empress in a canopied chariot being drawn along by an elephant-like creature, by Robert Robinson, about 1696.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

E. Croft-Murray: Decorative Painting in England, 1537-1837, i (London, 1962), pp. 46-7
E. Croft-Murray: An English Painter of Chinoiseries (Country Life Annual, 1955) pp174-179
Victoria and Albert Museum Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings Accessions 1954 London: HMSO, 1963

Labels and date

PAINTED PANELS TO DECORATE A ROOM
About 1696

PAINTED PANELS TO DECORATE A ROOM

The painter of these panels created scenes combining Chinese, Indian and Tartar influences. They reflect an English view of foreign places and peoples which confused accurate details with imagination and fantasy. The painter, Robert Robinson, was also a scene painter for the theatre and a mezzotint engraver. He may have designed these panels for a small room containing a collection of lacquer or porcelain.

Oil on panel, the grey backgrounds originally blue
Painted in England by Robert Robinson (active in London by 1674, died in 1706)

From a group of at least eleven panels, painted in England for an unidentified house
Museum no. P.6-1954

[British Galleries label. The labels were deliberately written by members of the BG team with a minimum number of words] [end of 2001]

Materials

Oil paint; Tempera; Panel

Techniques

Painting

Subjects depicted

Chariots (ancient vehicles)

Categories

Paintings; British Galleries

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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