|Current List 209A
Aiko Gyoso (Maekawa Bunzo comp.):
Arce, Dr. Jose; drawings by Schiff:
Argence, Rene-Yvon Lefebvre d':
Art Institute of Chicago; Wang Tao ed:
Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology, Beijing University:
CHINESE EXPORT ALBUM OF DRAWINGS DEPICTING THE PRODUCTION AND RETAILING OF SILK. N.p. (Canton?), n.d. (early 19th century). 120 full page black-and-white ink drawings. 28x29 cm. Original yellow paper covers with wear and loss.
Comprises 120 well-executed full page black-and-white ink drawings showing all the stages of the production, manufacture, distribution and sale of silk. Ranges from the planting of mulberry trees and their cultivation to the laying of eggs by the silk moths, the rearing of the silkworms, the selection of cocoons, the spinning of silk, the weaving of silk and the finished product to merchants selling objects made from silk. Each drawing inscribed with title in Chinese characters and English. The characters obviously done by a Chinese hand. Whilst the entire album is completely fascinating, it is perhaps the images of the weaving of various types of silk on looms that are most worthy of mention. The artist obviously drew these pictures from life and did so with accuracy. They are of great value for the study of the construction of such traditional looms and, given that there are people in each drawing, one can ascertain the scale and size.
The execution and size of the drawings is comparable to a couple of other albums we have handled which presumably come from the same [Canton] workshop and possibly done by the same hand. The other albums depicted various trades and customs. These also had 120 drawings, were the same size and had yellow paper covers. This album is, however, extremely unusual in its dedicated focus on one industry - sericulture - testament to the importance of silk production in the traditional Chinese economy, both as a rural industry and for trade. In addition to being a 'China Trade' item, this work is a valuable visual record and reference of the traditional process of silk production in China in its entirety, unchanged for thousands of years. It is the most comprehensive and detailed visual work we have ever seen on the subject and is of much value for research purposes.
We believe the previous albums we have handled which depict trade and customs as most likely being high-class tourist souvenirs for early visitors to China. The specific focus of this album makes it unlikely to be a tourist album and we wonder whether it was meant as an educational tool for expatriate employees of a western Hong in Canton.
The drawings are bound in the original yellow paper covers which have much wear and loss. The album was then encased in red brocade-covered boards (probably for protection), these boards being worn and detached. The paper leaves and the drawings are in good condition.
Despite extensive searching, we can find no record of anything as detailed or as extensive.
Possibly a unique item.
Images available on request.
Subjects: Painting Agriculture
Item 5 in List 209.
URL for this record: hanshan.com/?c/ZZCEA2.HTM
Record produced by Hanshan Tang Books, www.hanshan.com.