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Chinese Export Butterfly and Insect Watercolors

Late 19th Century

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Watercolor illustrations of butterflies and insects on pith paper.

  • Sold as a set of 12.
  • Printed in Canton.
  • Framed with a blue silk ribbon border and glazed.

Pith seems not to have been adopted for painting until about 1820. Some European museums claim that their paintings on pith come from the end of the eighteenth century, but there do not seem to be any dateable examples that are so early. There is a record of the Kaiser Franz of Austria buying some albums from an English Consul-General Watts in 1826. We know of an Italian count who visited Canton in 1828 and had over 350 paintings on pith in his baggage when he died in Ambon two years later. In the British Library, there is a scrapbook containing six pith paintings and a journal entry by a serving British officer who sent them home from India in 1829. These examples and contemporary accounts by visitors to Canton suggest that there was a flourishing trade in pith paintings by the 1830s.

Condition Report

Star iconVery Good
Like New

Not examined out of frame.

Wear consistent with age and use.


Height: 10.25 inches / 26.04 cm
Width: 13.75 inches / 34.92 cm


Paper, Wood, Glass

Decorative Style

Asian Decorative Arts, Chinese Export

Country of Origin


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