Set of twelve Chinese pith paintings depicting exotic birds


Made for Western export in the 19th century, these Chinese paintings of different bird species stun with their incredible, vibrant colours.


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This superb set of twelve Chinese paintings comprises vivid ornithological studies, depicting multiple breeds of exotic birds that are native to the Eastern world.

The bright colours of the animals stand out against the white paper background, rendered in eye-catching multicoloured shades. This is aided by using pith paper as a base, which on account of its lower absorbency allows patches of watercolour to pool on the surface like an enamel. Various areas of shading and hatching help to indicate the ruffled feathers and striking patterns of the animals even on a minute scale, showing the expert skill of the artist. The overall flatness of the pictorial surface is typical of 19th century Chinese painting.

Filled with character, the paintings depict the birds in groups of two or three, often interacting with each other. The artist places the studies amongst lush foliage, flying high in trees or exploring the ground below. Noticeable species include charming sparrows and elegant peacocks.

Chinese pith paper paintings such as these trace back to the early 19th century, designed by Chinese artists as easily portable souvenirs for Western tourists to take home. Typically depicting indigenous animals, plants, or customs, travellers would often stick the collections into a photo album for safe passage home.

Each painting is enclosed in an elegant painted wooden frame that is a later addition.

As interesting records of global historical exchange and captivating works of art in their own right, these paintings would make a wonderful item for any collector of antiques.

Panel: Height 20cm, width 32cm
Frame: Height 35.5cm, width 47cm, depth 1.5cm




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


35.5 cm / 13.8 inches
47 cm / 18.5 inches
1.5 cm / 0.4 inches


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