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Drawing, Chinoiserie Fantasy

This is a drawing. It was created by Jean-Baptiste Pillement. It is dated 1770–90 and we acquired it in 1931. Its medium is graphite on white laid paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

Ships, precariously tethered to mountain tops by garlands, hover over a landscape of pure fantasy in this graphite drawing by the French artist Jean-Baptiste Pillement (1728-1808). Pillement was a prolific artist who worked internationally and was known for his imaginative chinoiserie designs (European variants of Japanese and Chinese motifs). The landscape displays the influence of poetic Chinese literati paintings popular in China during the Song dynasties. In Pillement’s composition, a group of fishermen are seated by an alien plant composed of spirals and amoeba-like shapes. Behind are two pagodas and in the far background are hazy mountain ranges and temples and pagodas on grotto-like rock formations. On top are two boats with Chinese parasols—one with eagle wings and the other with dragon wings. The floating boats reflect a fascination with aeronautics as popularized through Bartolomeu Lourenço de Gusmão (1685-1724), a Portuguese naturalist who experimented with airship designs in early 1700s. Although this particular design doesn’t appear to have been reproduced in print, many of his compositions engraved into pattern books that were subsequently adapted widely on textiles, wallpapers, and other decorative arts.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled When Ships Fly.

This object was donated by Eleanor Garnier Hewitt and Sarah Cooper Hewitt. It is credited Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt from the collection of Mrs. Abram S. Hewitt.

Its dimensions are

22 x 28.9 cm (8 11/16 x 11 3/8 in.) Mat: 35.6 x 45.7 cm (14 x 18 in.)

Cite this object as

Drawing, Chinoiserie Fantasy; Jean-Baptiste Pillement (French, 1728–1808); France; graphite on white laid paper; 22 x 28.9 cm (8 11/16 x 11 3/8 in.) Mat: 35.6 x 45.7 cm (14 x 18 in.); Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt from the collection of Mrs. Abram S. Hewitt; 1931-70-29

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibitions Rooms with a View: Landscape & Wallpaper and The Cooper-Hewitt Collections: A Design Resource.

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Drawing, Chinoiserie Fantasy |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=30 January 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>