CHINESE SCHOOL, circa 1790
An album containing ten watercolour and gouache drawings of botanical arrangements
[circa 1800]. Oblong folio. (9 1/2 x 12 7/8 inches). 10 original watercolour and gouache drawings on Chinese pith paper (each approx. 8 x 11 1/2 inches), most with small areas heightened with gum arabic, each tipped onto a backing sheet at each corner and bordered by strips of pale blue paper that are also tipped to the backing sheet (four with insignificant splits to the pith paper, as usual).
Original gilt-patterned paper over pasteboard, green cloth ties
A lovely early album of fine Chinese flower paintings, in remarkably fine condition.
Despite its entirely Chinese origins this album was almost certainly produced for a western patron: perhaps a gift from an East India Company employee to his wife, or a Yankee clipper captain for his daughter. It contains a very fine selection of watercolours executed on pith-paper: a material that rarely survives in anything approaching fine condition. The drawings are all of arrangements of sprigs from flowering plants together with individual blooms. The intention of these drawings was not to provide dry scientifically-accurate botanical drawings, but to produce designs that were pleasing and harmonious. Flowers include Hibiscus, Gardenia, Chrysanthemum, Quince, Morning Glory, Camellia and two butterflies.
It later became the custom to instruct the Chinese artists in the art of western botanical drawing and also supply them with good quality western paper to work on. The apparent lack of any foreign materials or method suggest an earlier date for this album, although the style of drawing did remain popular through most of the 19th century.