Lot 196
  • 196

MAGNIFICENT VIEW OF THE PEARL RIVER OFF HONAM ISLAND, CANTON QING DYNASTY, CIRCA 1840

Estimate
200,000 - 300,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • canvas and wood
Chinese School, oil on canvas; a well-painted expansive view from the south side of the Pearl River, where the European factories were located, the calm waters bustling with junks, sampans and 'flower boats', towards Honam Island, the shore dotted with warehouses and distinctive landmarks including the Dutch Folly and Red Fort, framed

Provenance

Collection of Charles Forte, Baron Forte of Ripley (1908-2007), London.
Christie’s London, 12th July 2012, lot 120.


Literature

Carl L. Crossman, The Decorative Arts of the China Trade, Woodbridge, 1991, pl. 26.

Catalogue Note

This exceptionally large and exquisitely detailed painting of a port view would have been commissioned by one of the leading Western traders in Canton, the biggest of the treaty ports, possibly as a souvenir gift to send or take back home. It is recorded that many of these paintings went to America, hence the large number of Chinese School paintings in the collection of the Peabody Museum, Salem, and other American institutions.

The scene can be identified by the presence of two European forts: the Dutch Folly Fort (center right), across from the Western quarter, and French Folly Fort (far right), an island fort just below Canton. Westerners had been restricted by the Emperor to their trading concessions (the ‘Thirteen Factories’ area) on the north shore; however they had always been allowed to cross over to Honam. By the end of the nineteenth century the river opposite Honam had a floating population of over 100,000 people.

The present depiction of the Honam waterfront is unusual as no Western boats are shown. Instead the artist captures the array of shipping vessels, such as junks, sampans, tanka, and Mandarin boats, along with a pair of ‘flower boats’ (floating brothels). Paintings of this type were generally made in sets of four, consisting of a scene of Macao, the Boca Tigris, Whampoa, and Canton. A closely related painting was sold in these rooms, 18th-19th April 1989, lot 93. Compare also a pair of paintings, in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, Shipping in the Pearl River off Honam Island, Canton and Shipping in the Pear River off Canton, acc. nos BHC 1786 and BHC 1785.
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