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Pennsylvania Chinoiserie

Possibly 1810-1815
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Montgomery Co.
Primary support: 7 7/8" x 10" and Framed: 10 7/8" x 12 7/8"
Watercolor, gouache, ink, and gold and silver paint on wove paper
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1932.301.6
Two oriental-looking figures are shown full-length in profile facing left in a landscape with palm trees, small bushes and buildings. The left figure has yellow pointed shoes, bright orange trousers, a dark blue coat with a striped sash, a black mustache, and a long queue. The right figure wears black shoes and a long red undergarment, or gown, with gold painted area and buttons showing at the front; he also wears a blue, knee-length coat edged with a band of gold, red, green, yellow and white [embroidery ?] and a black, blue, brown, and red striped turban. He carries a small yellow striped basket. On the horizon to the rear are palm trees and a city or row of buildings colored yellow, blue, green, orange, black, and silver. The composition is bordered with a thin line of brown ink, leaving a rectangular reserve at the bottom, presumably for a title (but it is blank). Artist unidentified.

The 1 5/8-inch splayed red-painted frame has a flat outer edge and is possibly original.
Label:The Folk Art Center's piece is unusual among this unidentified artist's recorded works because it shows human figures. Only one other such example has been noted. The Folk Art Museum's two oriental men reflect Americans' fascination with Chinese decorations and motifs in the early nineteenth century. At least nine other watercolors that are stylistically linked to the same hand feature exotic birds. One of these is dated 1812 and bears several inscriptions in different hands, including one on an old frame backing paper that reads: "For Martin H Baer Jr/from His aunt Sarah/drawn by her Father in 181[illegible material]/1812/1812." Six pieces bear inscriptions in their lower margins, and of these, four are in German and two are in English.
A typical feature of the artist's work (and one evident here) is a stratified composition of undulating ground lines that quickly moves the eye up and back to create an illusion of steep, choppy terrain within shallow spatial depth. Scattered sprigs of grasslike vegetation and low bushy shrubs dot the landscapes and break up space. The palm tree at left in Pennsylvania Chinoiserie appears in several other works, but more often its trunk is ridged with bristly horizontal growth rings rather than left smooth. Exotic buildings appear in the backgrounds of all but one work. Lower margin reserves are invariably included. Some of them, like the Folk Art Museum's example, are left uninscribed. The artist is known by the convenience name of "The Exotic Scenery Artist."
Provenance:Found on Long Island, NY; purchasded by Edith Gregor Halpert, Downtown Gallery, New York, NY; purchased from Halpbert by Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in 1932; given to CWF by Rockefeller in 1939.
Inscription(s):Penciled inscriptions on the reverse of the primary support are made difficult to read by a backing of Japanese mulberry paper. They appear to be at least three multiplication calculations, some initials(?), possibly one or two words, and the name "John Kolkb" in script.