An important Canton enamel famille rose European-subject rectangular plaque
Provenance: Possibly one of a set of four panels which were originally used in the European rooms of the Yuanming Yuan, or Summer Palace, created for the Qianlong Emperor under the direction of Jesuit missionaries between 1747 and 1759
J.Tayleur Esq., London
The George de Brito Collection, Portugal
D.Howard, A Tale of Three Cities, Canton, Shanghai and Hong Kong, Sotheby's, London, 1997, Catalogue no.201, where the author notes that the scene is almost certainly after a European print which as yet has not been identified, and further suggests that the giltwood frame is probably contemporary with the panel
There are four known published examples of these panels: one depicting a musical group beside a lake, see R.S.Jenyns and W.Watson, Chinese Art, The Minor Arts, p.244; one depicting ladies and children promenading among Neo-Classical buildings, see ibid., no.112; one depicting European ladies and children at leisure and strolling on a lakeside terrace, see Christie's, Fine Chinese and Export Ceramics and Works of Art, 16 November 1999, lot 414; and the present lot. It is only recently that the possibility has been discussed that these formed part of an architectural commission for the Yuanming Yuan. Smaller panels, sometimes of irregular form, have been recorded in the past in Europe as furniture mounts, sometimes clearly intended to be applied to large pieces of furniture in Western form commissioned by supercargoes in Canton. However, the present panel (and the other three recorded of this size) are too large to be used in this way. It seems far more likely that they were designed to be fixed on a wall, symmetrically spaced. The idea would have been very radical and amusing in a Western context, and it is unlikely that no other examples of this chinoiserie interior decoration would have survived either in their original installation or in drawings or prints recording them in a grand European house. This being the case, the most likely candidate for their use as architectural accessories would have been one of the various specifically European-style buildings commissioned during the 1730s and '40s from Jesuit architect/designers resident in China. The panels are of outstanding complexity both in construction and painted decoration, and might well have represented tributes to the Imperial Court from manufacturers in Guandong, if they were too complicated to be completed in Beijing.