This dissertation investigates the extent of knowledge of China in Europe and, more particularly, Chinese influence on European art and architecture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It attempts to answer the following questions: 1. What visual and literary resources on China and Chinese art in Europe were available in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? 2. To what extent was there any understanding of Chinese art and architecture in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? 3. To what extent might this understanding have affected European art and architecture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?
Although European contacts with China began in the early sixteenth century, few scholars have touched on the evidence that exists of the extent of European knowledge of Chinese architecture before 1720, even on the possible impact of the Chinese architectural designs that were depicted on Chinese porcelains and other merchandise imported into Europe for two centuries before that date. This dissertation examines the evidence for the employment of new and differing aesthetics derived from Chinese artifacts and then assimilated in European art, architecture and landscape in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
After examining the variety of resources from which the new aesthetics derived from Chinese artifacts imported into Europe was evolved, the dissertation analyzes Chinese influence in different nations in an order which follows the most consistently open and effective communications to the Far East.
In the process, the dissertation quotes the contemporary historical descriptions of those Chinese artifacts as well as attempting to identify their influence on European art and architecture, thus providing evidence that the interaction between China and Europe served as a subtle but active, generative force in European art throughout the period.
In sum, the thesis attempts to explore the European understanding of Chinese art in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and to examine the consequences of that influence as they were reflected in European art and architecture. It analyzes some of the most influential and related social, political, and religious aspects that acted as powerful stimuli, which in turn affected the growth of Chinese influence on European art, architecture and landscape.
This dissertation thus attempts to push back the significance of the Chinese influence on aspects of European artistic styles from the accepted date of the early eighteenth century to the seventeenth and even earlier sixteenth century.