The Orientalization of a European Orient: Turkquerie and Chinoiserie in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Poland

Title
The Orientalization of a European Orient: Turkquerie and Chinoiserie in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Poland
Author
Ewa Domanska
Page
75-88
DOI
Abstract
In the 16th and 17th centuries the myth of the origin of the Polish noblemen among ancient Asiatic nomads called Sarmatians flourished. The impact of Polish-Turkish wars in the 17th century popularized Oriental knowledge and art. Polish noblemen dressed in Oriental fashion and furnished their homes with Oriental artifacts. As a result Poland was often considered by Western European countries as the “Orient of the West.” In the late 17th century Western and especially English and French fascination with Chinese art and culture passed to Poland. The myth of the “Wonderland of Cathay” was mirrored in art, architecture (especially in garden architecture) in the style called “Chinoiserie”. Contrary to the direct impact of Turkish on Polish culture, which was assimilated and became an integral part of the Polish nobleman’s identity, in the 18th century the fascination for China was indirect and formed a false image of this country as it was constructed in the Western countries. By analyzing Chinese artifacts and examples of “Chinoiserie” in Pol- ish collections, this paper will argue that even if Poland had direct links to the Orient, a Westernized fantastic image of China made a stronger impact and lasts till today in Pol- ish culture. Contemporary Polish popular culture is filled with “Chinoiserie” (interior design, medicine) which has little in common with the “real” China. The image of China even today is formed by an “imperial” knowledge and imagination.
Keyword
orientalism, Poland, “chinoiserie”, identity, popular culture
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