Among the most refined goods exported from China were large rolls of decoratively painted paper mostly prepared specifically for the western market. In contrast to their European counterparts, they were masterfully hand-painted and conceived on a grand scale, cut to fit a room and either pasted to the wall or lined on canvas and set on a wooden stretcher, as the present panels have been. Decorated with flowering trees and exotic birds, this beautiful set of wallpaper panels represent one of the three distinguishable Chinese wallpaper categories: those with flowering foliage patterns centred upon sinuous young trees issuing from naturalistic rockwork bases with birds and insects, (like the present lot); those with a flowering tree and figures; and those with figures involved in everyday activities, most commonly rice cultivation or palatial courtly scenes (J. Kosuda-Warner, Landscape Wallcoverings, London, 2001, p. 19).
During the 18th Century, the fashion for chinoiserie was such that most European palaces and mansions would have at least one room that was decorated with Chinese wallpaper panels. Several examples related to the present panels can be seen in the Chinese Apartment on the first floor of the Castello di Racconigi, near Turin; in different rooms of the Villa della Regina, Turin (A. Griseri, Un inventario per l'esotismo Villa della Regina 1755, Turin, 1988, nos. 33-35); and finally at Nostell Priory, Yorkshire, where the celebrated Thomas Chippendale installed the Chinoiserie State bedchamber.
A comparable set of four Chinese wallpaper panels was sold anonymously at Christie's, London, 7 December 2006, lot 125 (£33,600).