Many forms of Chinese export art played an important role in European interior decoration during the late 17th and 18th century, of which black and gold lacquer furniture, silk embroidery, and porcelain wares are most common. Chinese wallpapers appeared in Europe at about the same time as part of the larger trade. Imported by the East India and Dutch East India companies, these hand-painted papers arrived in Europe in the form of rolled sheets and marked an astonishing change of taste in grand houses that endured throughout the 18th century into the 19th century and then again periodically in the late 19th and early 20th century centuries.
Most of the great houses of Europe had at least one room decorated with Chinese papers, they were often hung to form continuous murals decoration around the room and featured exotic subject matters, which are the scenes of Chinese life and landscapes, flowering trees populated with birds, butterflies and insects, and a hybrid decoration of the flowering trees incorporating with figures and sometimes pagodas and temples.
The National Trust looks after one of the most important collections of historic Chinese wallpapers in the world, on permanent display at 18 country houses.1
Lot 66 in our forthcoming sale can be compared to a suite of twenty-four export Chinese wallpaper panels depicting birds and flowers, dated to the Qing dynasty, ca. 1790-1810, sold at Sotheby's London in December 2019 (Lot 23), or a set of nine Chinese painted wallpaper panels, probably 19th century, that was sold at Christie's London in October 2013, (Lot 28).
The set of four Chinese export 'Exotic Birds' wallpaper panels offered in our May auction comes from a private Scottish collection, formerly in the drawing room of Broxmouth House, Dunbar, East Lothian. It was the home of the Late Major-General Sir John Kennedy (1893-1970), G.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., K.B.E., C.B., M.C. A senior British Army officer who served as Assistant Chief of the Imperial General Staff during World War II. Broxmouth House was built ca. 1774 and was purchased and renovated by Major General Sir John Kennedy in 1966.
Lyon & Turnbull’s international Asian Art department conduct frequent specialist auctions, in the various locations throughout the UK and via live online auctions. These auctions have a special focus on Chinese and Japanese ceramics, paintings, furniture, jade, textiles and works of art and are perfectly positioned to capitalise on the current strength in the Asian antiques markets.