A SUITE OF FIVE CHINESE EXPORT WALLPAPER PANELS, CHINA, QING DYNASTY, 18TH CENTURY | ENSEMBLE DE CINQ LÉS DE PAPIER PEINT, CHINE, DYNASTIE QING, FIN DU XVIIIE SIÈCLE
A SUITE OF FIVE CHINESE EXPORT WALLPAPER PANELS, CHINA, QING DYNASTY, 18TH CENTURY
ink and colour on paper, each variously depicting characters in a garden landscape with pavilions and trees, framed (5)
ENSEMBLE DE CINQ LÉS DE PAPIER PEINT, CHINE, DYNASTIE QING, FIN DU XVIIIE SIÈCLE
encre et pigments sur papier, chacun peint de personnages dans des paysages aux jardins ponctués de pavillons et d'arbres, encadrés (5)
293 x 179 cm, 115⅜ by 70½ in.; 290,5 x 89 cm, 114⅜by 35 in. ; 293,5 x 88,5 cm, 115⅜ by 35 in.; 291,5 x 78,5 cm , 114¾ by 30⅞ in. ; 291 x 130 cm, 114 ½by 51⅛ in.
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The five panels are generally in good condition with some scratches in areas, expected light fading and occasional retouching or minor losses. All five are lined and framed for suspension with some sections missing as visible on the photos. The various scenes remain very vivid and highly decorative.
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Skillfully painted with a delightful scene of Chinese court life, these wallpaper panels with their vivid colours and fine draughtsmanship would have made an impressive display of good taste and wealth in an important room. Wallpapers were made in China solely for export to Europe, and while the earliest examples began to arrive in the late 17th century, they were particularly sought after between 1740s and 1790s. Their exotic, asymmetrical designs that lack Western perspective, echoed the Rococo style that was in vogue at the time.
Typically produced in sets of twenty-five rolls that could be cut and joined to make a continuous landscape, wallpapers were a popular, albeit rare, commodity sought after by the very rich especially in France and England. In France they were acquired from the Dutch, while in Britain directly from the East India Company. Contemporary textual references reveal their high desirability and rarity, which made them extremely expensive. The French dealer Lazare Duvaux (c. 1703-1758), for example records the sale of six sheets of ‘China paper’ to the Countess of Valentinois in 1756 for 144 livres (Carl L. Crossman, The China Trade, Woodbridge, 1991, p. 390); while the Regent prince and future King of England is said to have paid up to 17 Pounds per bolt of Chinese wallpaper.
Several examples of wallpaper panels painted with similar scenes of idyllic Chinese daily life have survived: a set of eight panels was sold in our London rooms, 27th September 2012, lot 98; a panel formerly in the collection of Col. R.C. Cottell now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, accession no. E.3017-1921; a pair partly painted and partly printed from wood blocks, from the collection of H.B. Darby, also now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is published in Margaret Jourdain and R. Soame Jenyns, Chinese Export Art, Norwich, 1950, pl. 40, together with a detail of a wallpaper in the collection of Sir Francis Burdett, Bt, pl. 42, later sold in our London, rooms, 31st January 1964, lot 213; and another from the collection of Ernest Thesiger, pl. 44.