Portrait of Houqua, three-quarter length, seated, in an interior
oil on canvas, laid down
13 x 11 in. (33 x 28 cm.)

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Lot Essay

Houqua (1769-1843) became the most powerful - and wealthy - of the Chinese merchants who made up the Co-Hong in Canton. D.S. Howard writes (New York and the China Trade, no. C101) that Houqua "developed a reputation of almost legendary proportions (by) his retirement in 1834, (when his) wealth was estimated at $26 million". Forbes, Kernan & Wilkins (Chinese Export Silver, p.29) note that "the style of life of the wealthiest Hong merchants, such as...Houqua, involved a degree of luxury...scarcely imagined except in the greatest houses of England and the Continent." Many journals of China traders record the lavish entertaining and generous gifts of Houqua, who was apparently as well-liked as he was respected for his business acumen.
Portraits of Houqua became treasured acquisitions for the leading Western merchants of the 1830, and in Western collections became almost iconic images of the China trade. Lamqua (b. 1801) was the portrait artist of choice.

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