We have written over the past couple of weeks about the splendid and quite unique collection of Chinese art to be found within The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachussetts (USA). Amongst the collections held there is a quite breathtaking series of gouache paintings vividly illustrating the vigorous ongoing trade between foreign countries and the traders of Canton (Guangdong) during the 1820s.
This image is captioned as ‘images for joss stick sellers’. It appears to depict a shop selling Buddhistic and other devotional figures associated with the burning of joss sticks and incense in a devotional situation at the temple or at a personal shrine. Ca. 1820-5, Canton, gouache on paper. Courtesy The Peabody Essex Museum.
These are unique not just as a collection but also because of their freshness and crispness, unaffected by the passage of almost two hundred years. They would have been executed for the export market and are not unique in themsleves. What is, however, very special is the fact that they have been so well preserved as a collection.
Metalware store in Canton, ca. 1820-5. This image painted in gouache seems to include many items made in the archaic style (copies of ancient artifacts from early dynasties). Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachussetts.
Chinese porcelain shop, Canton, ca. 1820-5. Note the porcelain garden seats depicted (bottom left) and which are clearly destined for the export market. There are vases of various forms which would be contemporaneous in origin and certainly not antique items. The vases would probably have been manufactured in nearby Jingdezhen. Gouache on paper, ca. 1820-5. Courtesy The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachussetts.