Lot 339. A rare set of four large rectangular wallpaper 'Canton landscape' panels, Early 18th century; The largest 240cm (94 1/2in) long x 85cm (33 1/2in) wide. Sold for £ 22,750 (€ 27,106) (Est: £1,500 - £2,000). © Bonhams 2001-2021
Each depicting a riverside scene dotted with elegant pavilions interspersed amidst pine and sage trees, and backed by mountainous range, finely detailed with various scenes featuring fishermen on sampans, official gatherings and boys engaging in leisurely pursuits, mounted and framed.
Published and Illustrated: P.Conner, The Hongs of Canton: Western Merchants in South China 1700-1900 as Seen in Chinese Export Paintings, London, 2009, pp.27-29 (illustrating three of the four panels).
Note: The present lot depicts Canton (Guangzhou) from the south-west. In the foreground is the large island of Honan that formed the south bank of the Pearl river. The city lies above and across the river, with the 'smooth pagoda' and 'flowery pagoda', as well as the 'Dutch folly fort' whose walls enclosed a temple. Between the fort and the city walls are the waterfront buildings supported by piles. The foreground has fascinating details of shops and people at work and leisure, offering us a rare window into the past.
Such panels were originally made as wallpaper and would have been intended for the European market. Following the fashion of European 'chinoiserie', most of the great houses of Europe had at least one room decorated with a Chinese paper, either original or imitation and by the end of the 18th century they could be found in more modest houses. Although many of the earlier papers were used in state reception or bedrooms they were eventually considered equally suitable for more 'feminine' rooms such as private chambers, boudoirs and bedrooms; see E.de Bruijn, A.Bush and H.Clifford, Chinese Wallpaper in National Trust Houses, Swindon, 2014, pp.1-48.
See a set of fifteen Chinese wallpaper panels, 18th century, depicting similar scenes of daily life, which were sold at Bonhams London, 27 November 2019, lot 30.
Bonhams. Fine Chinese Art: Including Imperial and Court Textiles Curated by Linda Wrigglesworth, London, 2 november 2021