SUNQUA. Album of Ornithological Paintings. 12 watercolours on pith paper, 345 x 215 mm surrounded by blue silk borders and mounted in an album bound in nineteenth-century Chinese silk. [Canton?]: [ca.1850].
A decorative hand-painted suite of ornithological watercolours by Sunqua - with all but one of the watercolours signed by the artist. Sunqua was a Chinese artist active in Canton in the mid-nineteenth century who is best known for his depictions of ships.
With the present group of watercolours, Sunqua illustrates an array of birds perched on flowering branches or standing in environments embellished with rocks, trees and flowers. Depicted are pheasants, ducks, herons, quails, parrots, birds of paradise, a peacock, and an owl, among others. The brushwork in the feathers is applied with virtuosic skill, perhaps demonstrated best by the plumage of the peacock, painted with a subtle palette of blues, greens and browns and carefully highlighted with gold.
It is unusual to find an album of such high quality painted on pith paper and even more unusual to have the watercolours signed. In a majority of cases, when one finds paintings of high quality executed by the artist himself, as opposed to his assistants, they are usually painted on Western paper rather than pith. However, it is recorded in Crossman's The China Trade that both Sunqua and Youqua occasionally painted on pith paper as well as Western paper. A label bearing Sunqua's name is reproduced as plate 45 in Chinese Export Watercolours. A fine example.
Clunas, Chinese Export Watercolours, pp. 75-76, 88-89. Crossman, The China Trade, pp. 41 plus.
Item nr. 148769