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The Chinese influence was at its strongest in the middle of the century, the beauties of the Ming dynasty had been lauded to the skies with disastrous results for China had unfortunately become aware of the growing market from across the seas and they were briskly exporting anything and everything at fabulous prices for the hungry European market. The good was mingled with the bad with complete lack of discrimination, and copies were being made by practically every factory in Europe. But such manufacture was still confined to the smaller articles such as bowls and figures, tea services and dinner sets, or lacquered boxes to hold my lady's gloves and kerchiefs, patches and powder.
Few indeed were the homes where a Chinese fan or lantern could not be found or an elegant picture on rice paper or Japan silk, but probably fewer still were the homes that could really boast with truth and honesty that such refinements were the real thing and not a copy.
The fashion for Chinaware and porcelain was simultaneous with its production in Europe, for the firs porcelain factory was established in Vienna as early as 1718. In England porcelain factories at Bow and Chelsea were active in the 1740's.
Defoe comments upon the fashion for china in his `Tour of Great Britain' (1726) remarking that-'The Queen brought in the custom or humor, as I may call it, of furnishing houses with China ware which increased to a strange degree afterwards, piling their China upon the tops of cabinets, scurtores and every Chymney Piece to the top of the ceilings and even setting up shelves for their China ware where they wanted such places, till it became a grievance in the expense of it and even injurious to their Families and Estates.'
The curtains and soft furnishings and often wall panelling of this time were frequently prints. Indian prints were particularly popular, and so were the handprinted linens, their designs taken from a Chinese pattern or copied from a contemporary pastoral picture. The pastoral influence was as strong as the Chinese, and we fined the two themes running side by side for more than half a century. Elegant bunches of flowers tied by loveknots hang over the courting shepherd and shepherdess. Shepherds' crooks with bows of ribbon and jumping lambs wave over the heads of cupids or fauns. The lovesick traveller leans elegantly against the ruins of an Ionic temple, a rounded Venus or Cupid shoots arrows into a cornucopia which overflows, scattering flowers and fruits or musical instruments all over the woven surface of the printed material. Such prints were frequently carried out in one colour on a white or tinted background -the whole at a distance giving the impression, however misleading, of a Chinese design.
There were of course a great many people who still preferred the hand embroidered materials for household decoration and particularly was this fashionable for chair seats, fire screens and footstalls, where rich baskets of fruit and lovely flower pieces vied with the splendours of the classical ornament or the more delicate rococo carvings and plaster-work of the smaller rooms.
About the year 1725 the lovely old house of Chillington, Staffordshire-home of the Giffard's since the welfth century-was renovated in the latest style.