Tinqua Paintings




‘Tingqua’ Studio.

12 gouaches of Mandarins in their formal attire. Painted on pith paper. Guangzhou, (Canton) c. 1850. Hard-cover binding with woven silk outer.

1850’s was the period when Chinese export ware was at its highest level of qualitative craftsmanship. Pith paper is made from Tetrapanex Papyrifera, a member of the Araliaceae family. The plant is a shrub native to Southern China and Taiwan.

The trunk, when trimmed of its bark, allows for thin slices of its core to be cut. These slices were used for many purposes: As a canvas for painting, as is the case here, but also for the manufacture of small toys. The paper reacts positively to gouache paint in enhancing the brightness of the colours.
This was realised by the Chinese from the beginning of the 19th century and export of such paintings have taken place from the early 1820s until the end of the century.

Products made and sold in this way were known as ‘Export Ware’. Besides Mandarins, there were other popular subjects such as butterflies, fish, birds, flowers, tea ceremony and even torture practices.