5 December 2017
JAY T. SNIDER COLLECTION OF ILLUSTRATED MANUSCRIPTS
CHINESE BOTANICALS – An album of 14 large original watercolors of edible plants. Shanghai, after 1805.
Oblong folio album (407 x 505mm). 24 watercolors on British paper, interleaved with Chinese paper guards, with pencil captions giving Latin names on the reverses. Contemporary calf gilt, with silk damask endpapers. Provenance: Donald Heald Rare Books.
An album of Chinese watercolors of fruits and flowers, exceptional in style and scale. The subjects include near life-size, incredibly realistic images of exotic fruits such as the Buddha’s hand citron, the loquat, and the Chinese flat peach. Their style combines beauty with a scientific aim, depicting the plants in several states of maturity, from seed to ripeness. In response to demand for Chinese goods in Europe, an export watercolor industry began to produce pieces specifically to meet Western tastes, much as "Company School" art developed in India under similar pressures. The most popular genre after trade-scenes was natural history—feeding a desire among European scholars for accurate depictions of exotic flora and tapping into a long Chinese tradition of both floral illustration and pharmacopeia. The most spectacular of these albums were often made to order to specific patrons—the present example, considering it's high quality and focus on edible plants, perhaps for an official in one of the East India Companies.
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