Attributed to Spoilum (Chinese, act. 1785-1810)
Portrait of a Hong Merchant
Oil on canvas, 23 1/2 x 18 in., in a beaded giltwood frame.
Condition: Relined, repaired tear, scattered retouch.
Literature: For similar portraits of Hong merchants by Spoilum, see Carl Crossman, The Decorative Arts of the China Trade, p. 22, Colour Plate 1; and p. 46, Colour Plate 10.
Note: This portrait, supposedly of the merchant Chung Qua, is representative of the renowned portraiture attributed to Spoilum, possibly the earliest and certainly the best known of the Cantonese oil painters engaged in the China trade during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A newcomer to the art of canvas oil painting, Spoilum was able to make a name for himself as the premier portrait artist in Canton by successfully combining the techniques of the exotic European medium with stylistic conventions from traditional Chinese art. Spoilum is believed to have been very active during his life, and is credited with many portraits of Chinese, English, American, and even Indian merchants who came to trade at the hongs of Canton. The delicate likeness prominently features the subtle smile and illuminated left shoulder that characterize the work of Spoilum and his followers, and render their work instantly recognizable to past and present audiences alike.
evidence of a retouched repaired tear through the subject's forehead and in a vertical line to the left of the figure's head. other scattered retouch, mostly to the background and edges.
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