The Casina – or Palazzina – Cinese (literally, the “little Chinese house”) was built in Palermo at the end of the 18th century, and represents a small yet striking emblem of the aesthetic taste that was popular in that period in Italy and Europe in general.
A Chinese-inspired exoticism had already flourished during the previous century, in the wake of the growing interest for anything “foreign”. It had become a cultural phenomenon influencing painting and literature, as well as architecture.
“Chinese rooms” multiplied in aristocratic, and even royal palaces. Fanciful images marked by asymmetrical shapes and color contrasts, attempts at imitating porcelain, the use of materials similar to lacquer, and the proliferation of quirky, “mad” architecture, with buildings dominated by the kind of whimsy decoration that echoed the paradigm of the Far East: European art found numerous ways to profess its deep passion for ‘chinoiseries’.
In 1799, in Palermo, Ferdinand IV of the Two Sicilies commissioned architect Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia with the renovation of a wooden, Chinese-style house he had bought from local noblemen alongside other estates. Marvuglia indulged the king and the exotic trend popular at the time.
Thus today we are able to enjoy “Chinese” colors and shapes in what used to be the Kingdom of Trinacria.