La Culture du Thé

La Culture du Thé

These images are reproductions from an 18th-century album containing 22 gouache paintings that depict the cultivation of tea. They have previously been exhibited at the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquties during summer 2015.

The paintings were produced for the Western market and the album once belonged to Crown Prince Oscar of Sweden (1799-1859), later King Oscar I, and after his death to his spouse Josephine (d 1876). The album came to the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities with the Gustav VI Adolf Bequest.

About the album sheets

The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities owns a collection of Chinese album sheets depicting the making of central products in Chinese trade, such as silk, tea and rice. This late 18th-century album (Qing) depicts the cultivation of tea, from seed to packing and exportation to the rest of the world.

This kind of album was made in the late 18th and the 19th centuries by anonymous artists. Usually the pictures were larger and the scenes more picturesque and decorative than those made for domestic use.

The pictures answer to the West's interest in Chinese production methods and technology, as well as its interest in exotic China. The Chinese artists had probably not studied the manufacturing process, but used Chinese woodcuts and book illustrations from 17th and 18th centuries as models, which is why the depictions are roughly accurate. The paintings have a pedagogical purpose and are both elegant and detailed. At the same time the depictions of the settings and of everyday life are very idealised.