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Plate, Spode Ceramic Works, 1818. Museum no. C.231-1934

Plate, Spode Ceramic Works, 1818. Museum no. C.231-1934

Designs influenced by Chinese and Indian art and architecture were extremely popular in the early 19th century. The renewed interest in the East was stimulated by objects imported from Asia and by newly-published books on India and China. The scenes illustrated in these volumes provided British designers and manufacturers with fresh sources of inspiration.


Blue and white ceramics

Chinese blue and white ceramics had long been much admired and copied in the West. By the early 19th century British potters were producing large quantities of inexpensive transfer-printed earthenware to satisfy the growing market for blue and white ceramics.

Indian scenes

The scenes that decorate many blue and white ceramics of the early 19th century were often taken from popular topographical prints of India.

Chinese scenes 

Scenes of Chinese landscapes, people and pavilions were very popular in the first half of the 19th century. They were inspired by scenes found on Chinese objects. The 'Two Temples' pattern was one of the most common designs.


To British designers the dragon was the ultimate symbol of China. The mythical beast occurs in various designs of the early 19th century.

Willow Pattern

The Willow Pattern is one of the most famous British ceramic designs. The scene of a temple with bridge, boat and willow tree was inspired by images found on Chinese ceramics, but was the creation of British manufacturers. The love story it supposedly depicts was invented later as a clever marketing tool.

Listen to the story of the Willow Pattern:

Download: mp3 | ogg View transcript


Frederick Crace (1779 - 1859)

Frederick Crace was a member of the most important family of interior decorators in 19th-century Britain. In 1794 his work at Carlton House, the official residence of the Prince of Wales, caught the attention of the Prince and from that time he worked almost exclusively for him. Crace designed some of the spectacular Chinese-style interiors of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. In the Music Room he decorated the walls with Chinese scenes in red and gold and designed golden dragons to support the blue satin window draperies.

Thomas Daniell  (1749 - 1840) and William Daniell (1769 - 1837)

The artist Thomas Daniell and his nephew William travelled throughout India between 1785 and 1793 recording its people, buildings and scenery. On their return to Britain they worked up many of the thousands of drawings they had made into coloured prints. One hundred and forty four of these were published in the six-volume Oriental Scenery (1795 - 1808). The illustrations provided a rich source of designs for British ceramics manufacturers

George Chinnery (1774 - 1852)

The painter George Chinnery sailed to India in 1802. He settled first in Madras and then in Calcutta, making his living by painting portraits. He also produced many informal drawings and watercolours of landscapes and village life. He was forced to leave India to escape his creditors and in 1825 he moved to the Portuguese settlement at Macao on the Chinese coast. Here and in Canton (Guangzhou), the only other Chinese port open to foreigners in the early 19th century, he painted sketches of local life and portraits of European and Chinese merchants.

Buildings and Interiors

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton

The Royal Pavilion in Brighton was built between 1787 and 1823 for George, Prince of Wales. The original Neo-classical design by Henry Holland was transformed from 1815 by John Nash who created an extravagant oriental fantasy. The exterior of the pavilion was based on Indian Mughal architecture. The domes, minarets, pinnacles and pierced stonework created by Nash were inspired by illustrations in William and Thomas Daniell's Oriental Scenery.

Interior of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton

The spectacular Chinese-inspired interiors of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton were the work of Frederick Crace and Robert Jones. Crace was responsible for the Music Room, the Banqueting Room Galleries and the Long Gallery and Jones for most of the major rooms.

The Banqueting Room at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton

The Banqueting Room, designed by Robert Jones, is one of the most magnificent parts of Brighton Pavilion. The walls are hung with paintings of Chinese scenes and a profusion of dragons fly around the ceiling, support the chandeliers and curtains and wrap themselves around the lamps and furniture.

Related Style

Chinoiserie 1745 - 1765

Both Chinoiserie and the later 19th-century Chinese style feature dragons and scenes based on Chinese porcelain and lacquer. In the early 19th century inspiration was taken not only from objects, but from illustrated books about Chinese trading ports such as Canton (Guangzhou) and Macao.

Read more about Chinoiserie

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