The Modern Appeal Of Asian Tapestries Modern home d?cor enthusiasts are often looking for new and unusual items to add a unique touch to their home accents. Whilst those in the know have often turned to textiles and wall hangings to add that distinct touch very few are aware of one of textile arts? hidden gems: Asian tapestry art.

Asian tapestries enjoyed a brief flurry of interest in Europe from the 17th century onwards, for about 150 years. Reflecting the growing confidence of European nations and their ambitions to conquer the world, these tapestries advertised the exploits of adventurous seafaring nations and helped publicize their travels, successes and conquests.

Known originally as Orientale tapestries they first came to prominence in the 17th century. They represented exotic for off lands like China, often concentrating on unusual items such as fruits and animals not found in Europe. They were designed to provoke audiences and challenge polite Europeans ideas about the world they lived in.


Their development as an art form can be traced back to the first accounts of Eastern countries from Jesuit missionaries in the 17th century. This sparked an interest in the exotic and unusual cultures of the East that continues to this day.

Tapestries designed in this style were very popular from the 17th to the 19th century in Europe, especially France. By the mid-17th century tales of the East were beginning to circulate amongst the aristocracy in Europe, brought back by Jesuit missionaries from the middle and far East. This created an interest in anything related to the Orient, and artists soon responded.

Many of the early depictions of the Orient were not experienced firsthand by artists and were often copied from engravings made by missionaries, such was the demand for Eastern artifacts and art. During the 18th and 19th centuries this interest was maintained due to the fact that the largely non-Christian countries in the East were still sufficiently different in culture, language and customs to seem very exotic to Europeans.

Over time this led to the development of a style of tapestry known as Orientale. Always distinctive, they tended to be tobacco colored and featured striking images of exotic creatures and people, set against a vibrant backdrop. Many were complemented with detail of local flora and fauna that was often remarkably accurate. Even today these tapestries continue to be popular and are a fantastic opportunity for art-aware home accent experts to add genuine flair and vibrancy to a variety of home styles.

Oriental tapestries

One of the most distinct works of Oriental tapestry art is La Recotte des Ananas from a series called “The Story of the Emperor of China”. It depicts an everyday scene in China, peasants picking fruit, and is lavish in its attention to detail. It also shows the Chinese Empress gesturing towards the plentiful fruit being harvested, with a pagoda and other buildings in the background.

The scene also depicts other tropical fruits and plants, setting the context as Eastern and distinctly non-European. Typical of the Oriental style it is believed to have been woven between 1697 and 1705 and commissioned by Louis Alexandre de Bourbon (1678 – 1737), son of Louis XIV, and many of the details on the tapestry would never have been experienced by the artists firsthand.

By the 1660’s Jesuit missionaries returning from Asia provided these details in the form of engravings, which also created a great deal of public interest in life at the Chinese court. Of the original ten tapestries six can now be seen in the Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Two of the most famous examples include ?Asia? and ?Royal Elephant?, both designed and woven by Charles-Jean Salloundrouze de la Mornaix between 1840 and 1843. They were intended for the exposition of Industrial Products in France in 1844 and stunned audiences with their vibrant use of color and their depiction of exotic lands far away.

Like all Eastern tapestries they exude a strange exoticism that is apparent even today. In a time before mass media they did much to help publicize to polite European society that other cultures existed and were quite different from their own.

Fascinating and Appealing

Because of the unusual subject matter of the tapestries modern art lovers are finding them irresistible to temptation. Like distinct objects bought abroad and proudly displayed in the home, Asian tapestries bring an element of the exotic into any home.

Combined with the warmth of the weave found in high quality tapestries they make a real statement of taste. Whether your room is old world charm or ultra-modern minimalist, Eastern tapestries add strong color and bold imagery that can enliven any environment.

Although Eastern style tapestries enjoyed only a brief fame their appeal continues to this day. They are often fascinating documents of life overseas at the time, as well as an insight into the preoccupations of European travelers of the time. As a result even very modern home d?cor enthusiasts are increasingly looking towards these forgotten artifacts of textile art for inspiration.

By pauline