Antique set of six Chinese pith paintings of tea production


Ensconced in vibrant blue frames, this beautiful set of Chinese paintings was made for the Western export market in the 19th century.


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Depicting the process of tea production via six painted vignettes, these Chinese pith paintings give an insight into daily life in China during the 19th century.

Rendered on plain white backgrounds, the figurative scenes depict men and women harvesting plants to make tea, and each painting is filled with dynamism and interaction between the figures. The large swathes of block colour - evident in the garments of the figures - are typical of 19th century Chinese painting, and the bright clothes emphatically stand out against the plain background. The flattened surface is also a marker of the Chinese style at this time.

Unlike typical paper, pith paper is far less absorbent as a medium. It therefore allows pools of paint to gather in relief on the surface, adding further vibrancy and texture to these paintings. 

Chinese pith paper paintings were designed as charming souvenirs for the Western visitor. Easy to transport, visitors would often stick their collection inside a photo album for safekeeping, helping to preserve the delicate materials. Ranging in design, the paintings would most often depict either plants and animals indigenous to the area, or traditional activities and customs.

The paintings are complemented by stunning blue painted frames, which are a later addition.

Celebrating the history of cultural exchange between China and the West in the 19th century, this pleasing set of paintings is a true collector’s item.

Panel: Height 21cm, width 33cm
Frame: Height 37cm, width 49cm, depth 1.5cm


Country of Origin
Date of Manufacture
19th Century
19th Century
Chinese Interest, Figurative Art
Painted Wood, Watercolour, Pith Paper


37 cm / 14.6 inches
49 cm / 19.3 inches
1.5 cm / 0.4 inches


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