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Chinese School, View of the Hongs, Canton, c. 1850

Documentation Signed
Period 19th Century
Materials Oil on Canvas.
Dimensions
W. 17.125 in; H. 11 in;
W. 43.5 cm; H. 27.94 cm;
Condition Excellent.
Creation Date 1850
Description Sought by collectors worldwide, art and artifacts showing an early western presence in the Orient boomed with the opening of the China Trade by way of the sailing ship. The surviving paintings which capture the important Chinese harbors of the 18th and 19th Centuries with western merchants are at the top of such a list of desirable items.

Showing the American, British and Danish flags over their respective factory houses, the Pearl River traffic bustles beneath the shore of Canton city’s edge. Foreign merchants and captains had to anchor off Whampoa, down the river, and travel by junk, sampan or other transport operated by the local mariners, using a wide variety of propulsion, as shown. No firearms, women and very few average crewmen were allowed to travel upriver to Canton. Though all seemed to make their way upriver anyway, if in secret.

This example, showing great coloration and detail, represents the height of the international tea trade and the period of record sailings by the clipper ships. No less than forty people occupy the many vessels on the river, all playing a part in the vast trade.

A large decorated cruising barge floats in the background as musicians play traditional Chinese instruments accompanied by a singer, likely serenading guests with popular selections from Peking-style operas. An important looking official stands on the high rear deck of his ship as many oars propel him forward. A fisherman’s single oar craft overloaded with fish, navigates through the larger ships, making his way to sell the catch.

Note the shoreline’s wealth of trees and foliage between the hongs and river, mostly planted in the 1840s by an American indemnity fund company. At this point, there is even a Western church before the British factory, at the end of Hog’s Road, which was built in 1847. A second great Canton fire in 1856 destroyed most of this area, and it was never fully rebuilt. Paintings like this form an important and historic record of a time and way of life now lost to history.

Set in its original gilt Chinese Chippendale frame.
Styles / Movements Asian Art
Incollect Reference Number 102586
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