Old-School Globalization

12.30.13

Chop Suey with Canard à l'Orange

Cultural cliches collide in a marvel of 18th-century silkwork.

An object from my third visit to the Metropolitan Museum’s “Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800”, probably the most important show of the fall season – and only open for another week. This amazing silk embroidery – yellow on one side, red on the other – was made in China in something like 1775, apparently for export to the West. (Click here to zoom in.) Its flowers respond to European taste, but its vase and amazing scholar’s-rock pedestal are notably Chinese. Given the globalization of style at that moment, however, I wonder if the flowers on this hybrid object could have been of greater interest to their Chinese designers, while the Chinoiserie cliches seemed a sop to clueless Europeans.

Or maybe both cultures got off on a glorious combination of cliche and novelty, even if they disagreed on which was which.

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