Mid-19th Century Chinese Export Painting of Canton

Value (2015) | $30,000 Auction$40,000 Auction
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GUEST:
This painting was given to my father from my great-uncle. My great-uncle was a missionary in China from 1922 into the '50s.

APPRAISER:
When do you think he bought the painting?

GUEST:
You know, I'm not really sure. It had to have been probably before 1937, I would think.

APPRAISER:
Okay. To begin with, I think you know it's Chinese.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And it's what we call an export painting.

GUEST:
Ah.

APPRAISER:
Most export paintings display some physical characteristic that identifies where it is. And the three major port cities in China were Canton, which today is called Guangzhou...

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
...Hong Kong, and Shanghai. This, I believe, is Canton. On most views of Canton, what you see right here in the center are trading centers, which they call hongs, that will fly flags indicating the country, the nationality of the trading that took place. In this picture, there are no flags in the center. However, if you look on the far right, what you see here is a French flag. And you see a series of Western trading ships. In addition, if you move back over this way, you see this sort of brown structure?

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
This is one of two Western-built defensive forts. Okay.

This is not the original frame. And if you look right around the edge, you see this sort of line? That's because this picture was originally in a smaller frame...

GUEST:
Really?

APPRIASER: …and that frame would have been black lacquered with gold trim around the edge. We know it dates, from the presence of the flag on the far right and the general handling of the paint, to sometime around the mid-19th century.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
There's a whole host of different studios that painted these for Westerners who were stationed in these trading centers.

GUEST:
Oh, okay.

APPRAISER:
They would be there from one to three years. And they didn't bring photographs back; they brought back paintings to show their family and friends as mementos of where they were. Any ideas on what the value is? I know you had it appraised.

GUEST:
Yes. My father actually had it cleaned back in 1978. And at that time, he had it insured for $4,500.

APPRAISER:
$4,500. Well, I think at auction, you could expect to get somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 for this picture.

GUEST:
Wow, that's pretty amazing.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Lark Mason Associates
New York, NY
Update (2015)
$30,000 Auction$40,000 Auction
Appraised value (2009)
$30,000 Auction$40,000 Auction
Event
Raleigh, NC (June 27, 2009)
Period
19th Century
Form
Painting

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