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Engraving - Imperial Retreat for Angling

Imperial Retreat for Angling

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (possibly, published)

  • Date:

    1759 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Matthias Darly (maker)
    Edwards, George, born 1694 - died 1773 (maker)
    Decker, Paul (publisher)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Etching and engraving, ink on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 52, The George Levy Gallery, case WW

Object Type
This print is a combined engraving and etching. An etching is produced by biting lines in a metal plate with acid. An engraving is made by first cutting lines into the surface of the plate. The printmaker makes lines of both types on a single piece of metal which are then filled with ink and printed onto paper to produce the image.

Subject Depicted
The Far East had long held a fascination for Westerners since traders, and later the various East India companies, had introduced exotic oriental goods to Europe. Matthew Darley (active 1741-1780) and George Edwards produced the earliest and one of the finest English pattern books gathering together Chinoiserie (Chinese-inspired) designs, which included this print. Other prints in A New Book of Chinese Designs (1754) ranged from figures and flowers to birds, furniture and buildings. This plate is entitled 'Imperial Retreat for Angling'. Angling is one of the typical activities assigned to Chinese people in European Chinoiserie fantasy. When it was republished in 1759 this plate was referred to as a 'Water Summer House'. The design of the pavilion wavers between a serious architectural approach, classically emphasised by pyramidal composition, large-scale proportions and ornamental structure, and a picturesque asymmetrical decoration of Chinese lattice railings, windows and pagoda roofs. It evokes the exotic garden buildings which were highly fashionable in Europe at this time.

Ownership & Use
These prints were intended for different uses. They were bought as a guide to the latest stylistic fashions and provided a useful design source for craftspeople, such as Western lacquer workers, wallpaper designers or embroiderers. This particular print may have served as a model for architects wishing to create new and original garden-house designs.

Physical description


Place of Origin

London (possibly, published)


1759 (made)


Matthias Darly (maker)
Edwards, George, born 1694 - died 1773 (maker)
Decker, Paul (publisher)

Materials and Techniques

Etching and engraving, ink on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Plate from Darly and Edwards A New Book of Chinese Designs, calculated to Improve the Present Taste, 1754


Height: 18.4 cm paper, Width: 25 cm paper

Object history note

Designed and etched by Mathew Darly (born in 1741, died in 1780) and George Edwards (born in 1694, died in 1773); possibly published by Paul Decker (active in 1759) in London

Descriptive line

Engraving 'An Imperial Retreat for Angling'

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Between 1750 and 1760 many pattern books with whimsical designs for architecture and decoration in the Chinese taste were published in England. The style was considered especially suitable for garden pavilions. Europeans wrongly thought that Chinese gardens had irregular layouts and this misconception influenced Chinoiserie garden design in Britain. [27/03/2003]


Printing ink; Canvas




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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