Drawing, Chinoiserie Fantasy
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.
Cite this object as
Drawing, Chinoiserie Fantasy; Jean-Baptiste Pillement (French, 1728–1808); France; graphite on white laid paper; 1931-70-29