Antique 19th-century Chinese Painting on Pith, Chinese Junk Boat




An original 19th-century Chinese watercolour painting on pith, Chinese Junk Boat.

A traditional Chinese junk boat with small figures. Watercolour on pith laid down on backing paper.

Delicate pith paintings by local Chinese artists were collected by Western travellers and merchants from around 1825 onwards. By 1833 the monopoly of trade by the English East India Company had come to an end, opening the China trade to dozens of British companies and seeing the number of merchants and volume of trade flourish. Paintings on pith were produced in port cities to meet the Western demand for local Chinese souvenirs. Relatively inexpensive and conveniently portable, they were often glued into albums to provide protection on the long voyage home.

Pith paintings are a fascinating record of the history, activities and socio-cultural exchanges taking place between China and the West in the 19th century. The juxtaposition of robust vibrancy of paint and translucent fragility of support is an enchanting combination prized by collectors around the world.

Unsigned.
There is some cracking to the pith as shown, and discolouration where the pith is laid down.
12.1cm x 18.3cm.
Unframed.

This work forms part of a fascinating collection once owned by a Scottish landed family. The collection evidences connections with a number of aristocratic families, principally that of James Hay Esq (1771-1822) and Lady Mary Ramsay.

The collection includes works by family members, paintings of Scottish country houses, and also pictures from Commonwealth nations, including India, South Africa and St Helena. The family likely had naval and East India Company connections. The variety of pictures in the collection is fascinating, and there is even an original signature by the Scottish novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott. The collection was accompanied by photos and ephemera (see photograph) which give an insight into the family’s naval and aristocratic connections.

James Hay was part of the Hay of Pitfour family, Perthshire. He married Lady Mary Ramsay, daughter of the Earl of Dalhousie, Midlothian, and they had twelve children. When Lady Mary Ramsay was prematurely widowed, she and the family lived at Linden Lodge, the gatehouse to Mavisbank House, Midlothian.

The collection includes pictures by members of the Hay family, including Elizabeth Hay (1802-1828), Georgina Christian Hay (b.1810) and William Edmund Hay (b.1805). William Edmund was lieutenant in the European regiment at Bengal, and major of brigade at Agra, which possibly accounts for the Indian pictures in the collection. Two of the Hay children married into Mavisbank: Catherine married Graeme Reid Mercer and Caroline married George Clerk Arbuthnot. A further daughter, Mary, married John Richardson Esq of Pitfour at Dalhousie Grange. The strong and various aristocratic connections in the family accounts for some of the pictures’ subjects: there are intimate paintings of Mavisbank House and Pitfour Castle amongst others.

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Product code: JC-766


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