Among the paintings in the Rijksmuseum collection is a faithful 18th-century representation of the Chinese port city of Canton. Recent study of this detailed picture, which stretches more than three metres, reveals it to be one of the earliest of its kind. Comparison of the details in various depictions of Canton and documentary archival research have even made it possible to narrow down the date of this panorama to 1771.
The View of the Pearl River and Canton is on view in the Asian Pavilion through 27 May 2018. This is the first time this work is being presented alongside Dutch art and crafts of the same period.
View of Canton
The wide azure-blue river with clusters of small ships was painted in watercolour on silk. Canton lies at the mouth of the river, encircled by large walls, beyond which crowd a multitude of Dutch, English and Swedish factories, Chinese warehouses, shops and artists’ workshops. Europeans were not allowed inside the city proper. Paintings like this one were made for Europeans who wanted to take home a detailed picture of Canton.