Chinese School, late 19th Century Canton

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Chinese School
late 19th Century

Refer to department
Chinese School, late 19th Century
oil on canvas
45.7 x 78.1cm (18 x 30 3/4in).


  • Provenance
    With Paul Mason Gallery, London.
    Acquired from the above at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair, London, by the present owner in 1987.

    The present painting depicts a port view of Canton, now Guangzhou, as seen from the Honam waterfront. Situated at the mouth of the Pearl River, Canton had long been a flourishing trade city. Operating under the Canton System from 1757-1842, Canton would be the only city authorised by successive Chinese Emperors to trade with the West. This was a means to control and limit perceived political and cultural threats posed from abroad. The Treaty of Nanking in 1842 would see a number of other Chinese ports open to trade with the West and therefore the diminished monopoly that Canton had once held. The waterfront shown in this work would once have been home to the famous hongs of Canton, the hongs being the factories and trading sites for the various countries that operated out of this port. After having been destroyed by fire at the onset of the Second Opium War (1856-60), the hongs were never rebuilt and the waterfront developed as seen in this work. Chinese godowns and the city wall can be seen along with an array of shipping including sampans, junks and a British paddle steamer.