Milan and East Asia

A visit to the second room of the permanent exhibition "Global Milan"

Global Milan - Room II (2021) by Museum of CulturesMudec - Museum of Cultures

An international network

The theme of globalized trade connects the first room to the second. A talking map shows which were the main trades between 16th and 17th centuries, including the slave trade and the spread of disease, thus returning the idea of a global network of products, goods and people.

Polycrhome jicaras with golden foil Polycrhome jicaras with golden foil (17th century) by Mexico (former Nueva Hispania)Mudec - Museum of Cultures

A global Maya cup

The jicaras, traditional Maya cups, are among the first globalized consumer products. Used for cocoa-based beverages, they also began to be produced in areas where there wasn't a consumption of this food.

Global Milan - Room II (2021) by Museum of CulturesMudec - Museum of Cultures

'White Gold': porcelain

The second room focuses on Milan's relations with Asia in 17th and 18th centuries, mainly through trade in luxury goods. Since the late 17th century Europeans bought textiles and porcelain from Asia, products that Europe itself could not produce.

Global Milan - Room II (2021) by Museum of CulturesMudec - Museum of Cultures

Chinese production

Chinese porcelain for export, European imitation of Indian, Chinese and Japanese products and Chinese production intended for a refined domestic market; the display cases of the room reflect Milan's global interconnections with the Far East.

Majolica water recipient with lid (half of 18th century) by Italian manufacture - Lodi, Fabbrica di Antonio FerrettiMudec - Museum of Cultures

European 'Chinoiserie'

An imaginary Chinese man on the top of a Lodi majolica is an example of 18th century decorative hybridizations. 
The style mixes Chinese porcelain motifs with those of European Baroque. The "man-pommel" shows European's fascination with China.

Porcelain plate with "Judgment of Paris" (half of 17th century (Qing dinasty)) by Chinese manufacture (Qianlong Kingdom)Mudec - Museum of Cultures

Porcelain for export

The growing European demand for porcelain lead Far Eastern production to introduce decorations  specifically designed for the Western market. 
This plate is an example of "porcelain for export", since it is illustrated with a Western classical subject: "The Judgement of Paris".

Global Milan - Room II (2021) by Museum of CulturesMudec - Museum of Cultures

Chinese domestic market

On the other hand, a part of Chinese production destined for the domestic market is particularly refined and rich in its manufacture. That is because it was intended for the Emperor, the court and his high dignitaries.

Avalokitesvara, the compassionate bodhisattva (15th-16th century) by Chinese or Nepalese manufactureMudec - Museum of Cultures

A statue with a secret

This little statue of Avalokitesvara (a kind of Buddha) depicts the deity in the lotus position, with a serene expression and a branch in the palm of its left hand. 
Under its base there is an opening plate that hides a small prayer scroll, remained intact over the centuries.

Pair of auspicious boxes (18th century) by Chinese manufactureMudec - Museum of Cultures

Traditional auspicious boxes

This pair of cloisonné metal boxes is an example of imperial manufacture destined for high lineage homes. 
The decorative elements depicted on the artwork such as the deer, the peach tree and the long, the Chinese dragon, are all typical auspicious symbols.

Global Milan - Room II (2021) by Museum of CulturesMudec - Museum of Cultures

Far East obsession

A sedan chair of Venetian manufacture and decorated with chinoiserie shows us the real European mania for the Orient. Some historical records report that a Milanese countess continued to use a sedan chair to get around the city even in the late XIX century.

Global Milan - Room II (2021) by Museum of CulturesMudec - Museum of Cultures

Fashion trends

Silks, cashmere and other precious embroidered fabrics coming from the East become part of European clothing fashion. Worn as shawls, they are a real status symbol to be shown off.

Global Milan - Room II (2021) by Museum of CulturesMudec - Museum of Cultures

Chinese style interiors

A small room recreates a "typical Chinese living room" in Europe. The collecting passion of the nobles of the time turned into a passion for interior design.

Global Milan - Room II (2021) by Museum of CulturesMudec - Museum of Cultures

Some typical elements of the "European Chinese living room": a pair of vases decorated with roosters (a symbol of the sun and a decoration motif appreciated by Western customers of the time), and a silk tapestry evoking an oriental atmosphere.

Large flower pot (19th century) by Chinese and French manufactureMudec - Museum of Cultures

Hybridation

This planter made of cloisonné metal and decorated with floral patterns is a majestic example of the cultural hybridizations encountered in the second room. The base consists of four winged lions to be attributed probably to the French manufacture of Ferdinande Bardbedienne.

Credits: Story

Maria Sara Cirifino

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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