Chinese reverse glass portrait of a young beauty in the original carved wooden frame. 36.5 x 41.5cm (14.3 x 16.3 inches). Circa 1850.
The colour composition, warm apricot silk contrasting starkly with a rich blue background, focuses the eye intently on the beautiful heart shaped face of the subject. A superbly drawn and particularly attractive example. Condition is excellent, some small losses to the paint, the frame with minor cracks and scratches. The top piece of the frame is slightly warped, curving out a few mm from the surface of the glass.
The art of reverse glass painting developed from the early 18th century when large mirrors, presented by European monarchs to the court of Peking were sinicised by Cantonese painters, being decorated with Chinese motifs before being presented to the Qianlong Emperor. The emperor quickly established a reverse glass painting workshop in the palace, and ordered the Jesuit court painter Jean-Denis Attiret to paint on glass for him. It is through him the practice came to be known in the west, sparking a hugely popular trade with a European aristocracy in thrall to Chinoiserie.
The process is difficult, time consuming and requires great skill. The image is painted front to back: ie the gold embroidery on the collar is painted directly on to the glass, then covered completely with the black ground of the collar. The black embroidery on the gown is overpainted with the apricot of the silk. The emerging image is invisible to the artist as they progress, finishing when the background blue is applied over the whole portrait.
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H: 41.5cm W: 36.5cm
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