China, Active 1840-1870

Extremely fine set of four watercolor paintings depicting Canton, Shanghai, Macao and Amoy harbors, circa 1863.

Each scene is identified in black ink in the lower margin and is surrounded by parallel line borders. The set is outstandingly detailed and exhibits dramatic lighting and shading and exceptional color density. One with label verso "Youqua Painter Old Street No 34 Queensroad No 107.".
1) "Canton 1863". Also marked in black ink lower left "Hai Nam". The harbor is filled with assorted Chinese vessels and is lined by two-story buildings, one fronted by an American flag flying from a tall flagpole. The very calm water is composed of fine horizontal bands of color. 9.25" x 12.375".
2) "Shanghai", also titled in black ink lower left "Above the Ocean". The harbor is fronted by stately two-story buildings and is filled with a variety of Chinese vessels as well as an English two-masted schooner and four Western ships, two flying American flags, one flying a British flag and the other a French flag. Several finely detailed figures visible on the vessels, engaged in various pursuits. Like in "Canton", the water here is very calm and is composed of fine horizontal bands of color. 9.25" x 12.375".
3) "Macao". Also marked in black ink lower left "G. Mum" and faintly inscribed in pencil lower right "The Gate[?]", possibly referring to the Portas de Cerco, the Barrier Gate separating the Macau Peninsula from mainland China. The gently curving harbor is surrounded by rows of elegant two-story buildings, a residential neighborhood and distant hills, one topped with a fort-like structure and another with a temple-like building. One of the buildings on the waterfront is fronted by a flag on a flagpole, possibly an American flag. Several assorted Chinese vessels and a small Western sloop fill the harbor, and many finely detailed figures are visible on the vessels and on shore. The calm water is composed of fine concentric bands. 9.5" x 12.125".
4) "Amoy". A wide array of buildings, some flying French and Dutch flags, line the bustling harbor filled with assorted Chinese vessels and a British-flagged sloop. Two of the vessels in the foreground are flying vibrant green and red flags and have detailed figures maneuvering the craft. In the distance are rolling hills. The calm water here is also composed of fine horizontal bands. 9.5" x 12.5".

Each painting is tacked at a few points to a light blue silk ribbon, which is tacked at a few points to a backing sheet; the mounting is easily removable. Housed in contemporary mahogany frames with reverse-painted black and gilt mats and metal plaques marked "Youqua".
Condition: The condition of all of the paintings is outstanding. There is no fading, staining or other problems. Digital photographs of the unframed paintings, including the label verso, are available.

  • Provenance:
    Rafael Osona Auctions, Nantucket, Massachusetts, August 18, 2018.

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