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On Chinoiserie Design & Japanning in the University of Coimbra’s Biblioteca Joanina

Itani, Yoshie;


The Joanine Library (the “Old Library”) at Portugal’s University of Coimbra was built between 1717 and 1728 during the reign of King João V. Inside the Joanine Library, with the exception of the ceiling, many of the interior surfaces—columns, walls, bookshelves, and doors—are colored in black or vermillion “japanning” and decorated in the Chinese-style designs known as “chinoiserie.” In this paper, I present the results of my study of this interior, considering why such japanning and chinoiserie were selected for the interior design and introducing some of the significant design elements I was able to identify within these. Relationships between various world regions and Europe clearly defined the places of the art created in those regions, but routes of exchange at that time were much broader than merely “toward Europe.” The Old Library at the University of Coimbra is one representative example, built using gold and wood brought from Brazil, offering an entirely European baroque appearance outside, but decorated in chinoiserie within. In the Old Library we see the results of an attempt, motivated purely by intellectual curiosity and quite apart from Western intentions of discovery or conquest, to integrate aspects of a different culture and a new aesthetic. Through my survey and analysis of the panels within the Old Library, my intention is to gain some insight into the views of Asia held by the Portuguese of that time.


Palavras-chave: the Joanine Library, Coimbra University, chinoiserie, japanning, cross-culture,


DOI: 10.5151/despro-icdhs2014-0094

Referências bibliográficas
  • [1] Amaral, A.E. M. (2011) Tesouros Da Biblioteca Geral Da Universidade de Coimbra, Coimra: Universy of Coimbra.
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  • [3] Fiolhais, C. (2013), Joanina, Coimbra: University of Coimbra.
  • [4] Impey, O. (1977), Chinoiserie, London: Scribners.
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  • [6] Ibid. (2009) History of Brasil, Tokyo: Toyo Shoten.
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  • [9] Tateishi, H. (2913) History of Spain and Portugal, Tokyo: Yamakawa Publishing, 2000
Como citar:

Itani, Yoshie; "On Chinoiserie Design & Japanning in the University of Coimbra’s Biblioteca Joanina", p. 645-650 . In: Tradition, Transition, Tragectories: major or minor influences? [=ICDHS 2014 - 9th Conference of the International Committee for Design History and Design Studies]. São Paulo: Blucher, 2014.
ISSN 2318-6968, DOI 10.5151/despro-icdhs2014-0094

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