Canton: c. 1840. Intricately carved wood boards. This elaborate album may possibly have come from the studio of the prominent Canton artist Youqua. The skill of the exquisite painting, the density and brilliance of color, the silk brocade strips, the extraordinary carved wood binding, all combine to make this an outstanding album.
Each pith painting is surrounded with an ornate silk brocade braid. There are 11 different series. The interior scenes are extremely ornate with full patterned backgrounds of wallpaper and richly designed carpets. The series include Court life (8 images); large birds (3); Empress with ladies in waiting (8); Punishments (12); Flowers with butterflies (6); Silk production (8); Butterflies (5); Mandarin and family home life (6); Fruit with insects (4); Tea production (8); Fish (3). The album originally had 100 images, of which 71 remain.
The cover is quite extraordinary. The carved wood depicts a densely packed scene of pagodas, homes, people drinking tea around a table, a bridge, trees, etc. On the back cover, the scene is similar but varied. The spine has three views of Chinese life in an oval border, which are surrounded by carved flowers. There are two gilt colored metal clasps.
The condition of the pith paintings is remarkably good, with few minor cracks. The spine had a longitudinal crack that has been professionally restored. One clasp & hinge is complete, with the catch on the top board; the hinges of the other clasp remain but the clasp is lacking.
The section on the various stages of tea production covers preparing the ground for planting tea bushes to tasting the finished product.
1. Preparing ground for planting tea bushes 2. Planting tea bushes 3. Picking tea leaves 4. Separating the tea leaves 5. Drying tea 6. Selecting tea 7. Packing tea for transport 8. Tasting tea.
Youqua was active between 1840 and 1870 and was highly regarded for his port scenes, landscapes and still life paintings. He had studios in Canton and Hong Kong creating pith paintings.
A scarce example of a large and what would have been an expensive memento of time spent in China, now rare in the market. Very good overall. Item #27207