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Rare China Trade reverse glass mirror portrait, period 1800 - 1840, of a pretty lady.
This regal looking lady is wearing a'mantilla' which indicates to us that she was likely a resident of the Portugese colony of Macao which was established at the entrance to the Pearl river on the South China coast in the seventeenth century. When The Empror of China granted trading rights to the nations of Western Europe and the United States a 'Foreigh Trading Port' was established on an island adjacent to the city of Canton located a distance up the Pearl river. Chinese Mandarins imposed considerable restrictions on 'Foreigners' trading there - absdolutely no women were allowed (the theory being the presence of women would promote true 'settlement' to which the mandarins were opposed). The colony of Macao however was allowed to function as a settlement and had an often fascinating female population. Western ship captains, their officers, and China traders established all manner of relationships with the women of Macao. We believe this portrait represented someone 'special' to a ship's officer, or China trader.The portrait is a convenient size to be hung or stowed in the cramped quarters aboard ship.Perhaps portraits on mirror were created so the viewer could see himself 'with' the object of his affection.
Reverse glass portraiture is a challenge for the artist in that the work must be created in the opposite manner from a normal painting - the final details such as eyes, lashes, lips, etc. must be laid down first followed by shading, with mass and background applied last.Chinese artists catering to the Western trade mastered the technique early on.
This painting is a most charming example of its genre. Few examples of these delicate portraits have survived. This painting is in fine condition having fine age patina, very minimal flaking, and only a small chip in the lower right hand corner.
Please see our detail photos by clicking on the above photo.
Size: 7 1/2" x 9"