Peanut, Arachis hypogaea
Museum no. E.1754-1924
In China, at the time these drawings were made, foreigners were confined to the island of Macao and allowed into Canton only when their ships were in port. To obtain drawings of Chinese plants they had to commission native artists often through the agency of the East India Company. They gave the artists examples of European illustrations to copy and trained them in the conventions of Western botanical drawing. Although the Chinese artists were adept copyists, their drawings and watercolours can easily be distinguished from those by European artists. They tend to use a limited number of flat tones which can be seen in the leaves and the two tone flowers in this drawing. With this peanut plant the artist also recorded every detail, including the nibbled leaves. In Chinese flower painting, the natural forms were abstract and idealised. But when working for European clients, the artists were instructed to give precise botanical details and a literal transcription of the individual specimen. Thus in this picture each yellowing and withered leaf is precisely delineated.
This drawing can be found in Print Room Box DP3.