Six Chinese pith paintings with floral and butterfly designs


Featuring delicate foliate designs plus a host of colourful insects, these pith paper paintings were designed for the Western export market.


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This set of six Chinese paintings is rendered on pith paper. A highly unique support, the paper has an unusually low absorbency: this allows the applied paint to pool on the surface like an enamel, creating raised areas of pigmentation that draw the viewer’s eye.

These superb paintings are united by their floral designs. Pastel pink, blue, and yellow blooms are contrasted against dark green leaves and foliage, creating a wonderful juxtaposition of colour palettes that effectively evokes the natural world. Each of the floral compositions is surrounded by hovering insects. Vibrant butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers and other creatures peek around the blooms, rendered in eye-catching multicolour with raised white detailing. Both the flowers and animals are depicted with superb detail even on a miniature scale.

Designed for export, pith paintings such as these were highly popular souvenirs for Western visitors to China. Typically depicting native wildlife or customs, these superb paintings were easily transportable, and would often be stuck into photo albums for safe passage home.

Each of the six paintings is ensconced in a contrasting painted black frame applied with gilt detailing, which is a later addition.

With pleasing foliate designs, this stunning set is a true collector’s item.

Panel: Height 21cm, width 32cm
Frame: Height 37cm, width 38.5cm, depth 1.5cm


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


37 cm / 14.6 inches
38.5 cm / 15 inches
1.5 cm / 0.4 inches


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