Dragons & Pagodas: A Celebration of Chinoiserie

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Dragons & Pagodas: A Celebration of Chinoiserie, it would be a most appropriate thing to do! Written and illustrated by art historian Aldous Bertram, the beautiful watercolor on the front cover provides a hint of the fantastical exploration of chinoiserie that awaits discovery inside.

“My primary aim is to celebrate the historical depth and staggering range of a style that is sometimes misunderstood as frivolous or peripheral,” Bertram explains in the Preface. “Furthermore, I hope to show that the passion for chinoiserie is alive and well in the twenty-first century, frequently starring in freshly iconic interiors across the fashion and design worlds.”

Dragons & Pagodas: A Celebration of Chinoiserie
chi·noi·se·rie /ˌSHēnˌwäzəˈrē,ˌSHēnˈwäz(ə)rē/ (noun)
  1. the imitation or evocation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, furniture, and architecture, especially in the 18th century. [Definition from Oxford Languages]

Dragons & Pagodas explores the fascinating history of chinoiserie, a cultural phenomenon that first swept across Europe and America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, revolutionizing taste and creating a new decorating style that has remained unwavering in popularity to this day. The scarcity of firsthand knowledge left Europeans to develop their own ideas of what they imagined China to be like, and the sensational account of Marco Polo’s twelfth-century visit to the East largely set the tone.  Colorful, charming, and whimsical imagery depicting China as an enchanted and exotic world of fantasy emerged, igniting a mania that has raged for three centuries. “… the chinoiserie flame has at various times flickered and flared, but it has proved far too pretty and peculiar to be forgotten for long,” writes Bertram.

The Chinese Room in Claydon House, designed in 1769

Dragons & Pagodas is organized by theme, including porcelain, color and pattern, flora, fauna, and architecture. Each chapter is bursting with images ranging from grand European summer palaces and whimsical pagoda follies to charming details of screens, porcelain figurines, and ornate plasterwork. Complete with Bertram’s own chinoiserie-inspired watercolors and collages, Dragons & Pagodas is an irresistible confection and an example of chinoiserie in its own right.

Today we are taking a sneak peek!

A perfect example of an 18th century chinoiserie bedroom, complete with hand painted wallpaper. The furniture are copies of Chinese furniture by William and John Linnell.
A display of Chinese export porcelain at Alvøen Manor, Norway
A collection of antique European and Chinese porcelain and faience is displayed around the walls of the porcelain room of Andrew Gn’s Paris Apartment
The Chinese porcelain displayed in Andrew Gn’s Paris salon is from the Transitional and Khang Hy periods
Watercolor by Aldous Bertram
Vogue, September 15, 1972 – In the New York City home of Françoise and Oscar de la Renta
The chinoiserie-style dining room at Seend Manor, Wilshire (full tour here)
Chinese wallpaper panels seen in the Paris apartment of Pierre Bergé. They were previously installed in the iconic Palm Beach salon of Mona von Bismark.
Wicker pagodas for Amanda Lindroth’s tabletop collection, designed by Bertram (available for purchase here).
Chinoiserie murals in the Palm Beach apartment of Amanda Lindroth, painted by Bertram in 2015. Inspired by The Chinese Room at Claydon House. (full tour here)

This is absolutely a book you will want to add to your library and gift this holiday season! Dragons & Pagodas: A Celebration of Chinoiserie was published by Vendome and is available for purchase here. You can learn more about Aldous Bertram and purchase his artwork via his website.


  1. I adore chinoiserie and am thrilled to see this book. Thank you very much for highlighting this talented author/artist. I’ve ordered a few of the prints, and they will fill in a couple blank spots beautifully. I think I could have ordered them all.

  2. Thank you Andrea! The first room featured at Clayton House is the ‘gold standard’ of Chinoiserie. Looking forward to Dragons and Pagodas. Except for my Tuscan kitchen my own home is primarily Palm Beach/Chinoiserie…such fun!


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