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Pair Of Late China Trade Steamship Paintings

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A fine and quite scarce pair of period 1911 - 1920 Chinese guache paintings depicting two Chinese passenger/freight steamers. The ships, a paddle steamer, and what looks to be a screw steamer, are shown working their way between islands , some of which are fortified with cannon batteries.

The approaches to Hong Kong were dotted with islands and some of these had batteries of cannon mounted to protect the harbor and prevent occupation of these strategic positions by pirates and smugglers. Vessels of the type depicted in these paintings were operated by both Chinese and foreign owned steamship companies from the mid nineteenth century up to WW-II. They carried all kinds of passengers and freight along the length of the China coast, on the Yangtze and Pearl rivers, and in this case probably in the trade between Hong Kong, Canton, and Macao. These steamers were frequently attacked by Chinese pirates looking to loot the ship and/or kidnap wealthy hostages - often but not always Chinese - for ransom.

The flags shown in these paintings are of the early 'Republican' period after the fall of the Chinese Imperial government in 1911when Sun Yat Sen sought to form a republican government and assorted warlords and others took to arms for their own benefit. This state of anarchy was a very dangerous period for the owners of steamship lines. There was no longer an Imperial Chinese Navy to suppress piracy, and foreign (Western and Japanese) naval units generally confined themselves to protecting their own nationals and fostering their own aims. No wonder these small Chinese steamers are portrayed near the protection of somebodys guns!

The paintings are quite accurate in showing the design and layout of coastal steamers of the period. The ship's names are painted on the paddlebox of one and the side of the other vessel. We believe the paintings show specific vessels and would appreciate it if someone would tell us the names so that we could research the actual ships.

The paintings are in fine original condition with lots of drama, fine detail, and were custom framed some twenty five years ago. They are very attractive artifacts of an important historical period for the collector.

Dimesnions: frames 25" x 17 1/2", images 19" x 12"

Price $1550.00 the pair

 

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