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The Singkwa Towel Gourd
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This is a Singkwa towel gourd. I must confess that I don’t know what that is, but apparently, it’s a common garden flower in China. The British of the Nineteenth Century seemed to have a keen interest in exotic plants and animals. And, it wasn’t just botanists. Watercolors and prints of Asian flora and fauna were quite fashionable in home décor from the 1820s well into the Edwardian era and beyond. Furthermore, tourists reveled in bringing plants and fruits from foreign lands to put into their gardens in those lovely pre-customs days.
The work of an unknown artist from Guangzhou, China, this watercolor painting of the towel gourd dates to 1800 and 1830 and shows the growing British passion for exotic flora. While we can’t be sure, it’s a safe bet that this painting on Chinese rice paper was brought back from Asia by a wealthy tourist with an eye for beauty.