Anonymous Chinese artist, 'Peanut, Arachis hypogaea', late 18th or early 19th century. Museum no. E.1754-1924
Anonymous Chinese artist
'Peanut, Arachis hypogaea'
Late 18th or early 19th century
Museum no. E.1754-1924
As China opened up to foreign trade in the eighteenth century European botanists were compelled to record the plants they encountered for the first time. Rather than return home with dry and lifeless specimens, native artists were employed to produce drawings from living species, particularly around the ports of Macao and Canton.
Though Chinese artists could boast a long tradition of flower painting, their abstract style was very different from the precise botanical illustration undertaken in Europe. In order to satisfy their patrons' tastes, these native artists began to study European examples and to adopt the same conventions.
This study of a peanut plant shows the characteristically hybrid style that emerged. Attesting to its European influence, the drawing is arranged on a blank page and every detail, including the last nibbled leaf is recorded. Nevertheless, there are still Chinese traits such as the flattened perspective.