Set of six antique Chinese pith paintings depicting women weaving


Pith paintings such as these are a fascinating insight into traditional Chinese customs, and were avidly collected by Western visitors.


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This set of six pith paintings gives an insight into daily life in 19th century China. Rendered in vibrant colours, this set depicts a series of vignettes of women weaving, a traditional female domestic activity.

The bright tones of the clothing, furniture, and geometric carpets in each of the paintings stand out against the plain white background, accompanied by a hanging curtain in some of the images. The painting style combines a traditional Chinese approach of a flattened pictorial surface and blocks of colour, with aspects of Western influence in the realism and detail. The pith paper base is a less absorbent canvas than traditional paper, which allows the paint to pool in relief on the surface, producing raised details of sparkling, jewel-like intensity.

Tracing back to the early 19th century, pith paintings by local Chinese artists became highly popular with Western travellers, as mementos of local subjects such as indigenous flora and fauna and local trades and customs. Easily portable, they were the perfect souvenir, and were often glued into albums for protection on the long journey home. Paintings such as these are therefore a truly fascinating record of the history, activities and socio-cultural exchanges taking place between China and the West in the 19th century.

The paintings are ensconced in delicately painted wooden frames, which are a later addition.

This set is a particularly fine example of the pith painting style that is prized by collectors around the world.

Panel: Height 32cm, width 21cm
Frame: Height 47.5cm, width 36cm, depth 1.5cm




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


47.5 cm / 18.5 inches
36 cm / 14.2 inches
1.5 cm / 0.4 inches


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