Plate Books / Fashion & Costume

Price: EUR 3800,00

[Chinese Pith Paintings]

[A silk album with 12 lady musicians]

Canton? Probably mid 19th century. Folio. 33 x 22 cm. 12 gouache paintings on pith in an original silk brocade covered binding wih red ties. Blue silk bands frames the images.

Small damage to the spine ends. Some wear to the board edges. Two bumped corners. Some foxing to the paintings. A few of the plates with tears, for the most part outside the image areas. Small losses of pith on a few plates outside the image areas. One plate with some damage to the face of the woman.

The paintings depict chinese ladies playing various instruments. They are executed on pith which is a material that is shaved of the inner bark of the plant Tetrapanax Papyrifer, native to southern China. The thin leaves are translucent and creates a remarkable lightness to the paintings. Pith painting is a skilled art form where the paint sits partly on top of the leaves withhout merging with the backing, like it would if it was executed on paper. This gives a deep effect, a bit like 3-D. The paintings are like sparkling jewels thanks to the colourful and detailed painting technique. From the 1820s throughout the 19th century pith paintings were produced mainly in large studios by highly skilled artists in the great eastern port cities of China, for export to the west. At first in Canton but after the First Opium War (1839- 1841) in other places when more ports opened to foreign trade. The most intense period for the production of pith paintings was the mid 19th century. Not only did the paintings appeal to western buyers because of their beauty but they were also easy to transport and were at that time durable, especially since they came in albums and later in silk covered boxes with glas tops. This is also why they for the most part have preserved their bright colours. With time the pith became quite brittle and today most examples have missing pieces and tears. The present paintings are of very nice quality, better than many other pith paintings on the market, but still not of the highest order of quality. The ladies are seated on traditional chinese furniture dressed in beautiful costumes playing several different string instruments, cymbals, flute, trumpet, gonggong and some sort of miniature drum.

Item No: 3997