A Chinese Empress in a Chariot (one of eleven panels with Chinoiserie decoration) thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 56c

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

Oil Painting
ca. 1696 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
oil on panel
Brief Description
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.
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.
Dimensions
  • Estimate height: 216.5cm
  • Estimate width: 79cm
  • Depth: 4cm
Dimensions of this panel and P.8-1954 and P.10-1954 are given according to the British Galleries Database. As they are now on display [11/4/2002] they cannot be confirmed for the moment. The original dimensions given in the Summary Catalogue of Oil Paintings are inaccurate in some cases and have caused problems in the past for numbering and identification. Dimensions checked: Measured; 11/01/1999 by nh. Frame adds 10cm to panel height and width. Note that the width of the panels varies.
Style
Production typeUnique
Gallery Label
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)
Credit line
Presented by Art Fund
Object history
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
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.
Subject depicted
Summary
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.
Bibliographic References
  • 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
Collection
Accession Number
P.6-1954

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record createdApril 11, 2002
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