Peony, ca. 1823

Unidentified Chinese artist
Goauche on paper

Gift of H.A. Crosby and Grace P. Forbes

Accession Number: E80609.3

Guangzhou (Canton), China or Mauritius

Peonies on Paper, Chinese Export Botanical Painting

On view June 17, 2003 to July 18, 2004

Located in the: Special Exhibition Galleries

Peonies on Paper: Chinese Export Botanical Painting, the first installation in a new exhibitions gallery designed specifically for the display of Asian export works of art on paper, features over 60 floral paintings by Chinese artists. Chinese botanical paintings traditionally sought to capture the life or spirit of a plant. The artists who painted these images for western patrons also incorporated European approaches to portraying light and shadow, color, and realistic detail. Produced in artists' studios in Canton (Guangzhou), the Chinese port city for foreign trade, these paintings feature many plants found in Western gardens today. Peony, hibiscus, camellia, chrysanthemum, azalea, magnolia, and rhododendron plants were all collected in China and introduced to European and American gardens in the 19th century. Known as the “king of flowers”, the peony is perhaps the most widely used flower in Chinese art. As early as the 7th century, peonies were associated with the imperial family and symbolized wealth and rank. Marco Polo described them as “roses, big as cabbages.”

This gallery has been renovated with funds generously donated by Lee and Juliet Folger/The Folger Fund