Two Women in an Interior


Reverse glass painting in original Cantonese gilt and black lacquered frame.

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Reverse glass painting in original Cantonese gilt and black lacquered frame. The women, elegantly dressed in embroidered robes, sit within a room whose apertures reveal trees and the distant shore of a lake. One of them plays the pipa, or four-stringed lute. On the side tables are books bound in brocade and a pomegranate on a stand (right), and a gilt tripod incense-burner with peonies in a vase. An unusual feature of the scene is that, together with the traditional Chinese furnishings and a hanging scroll-painting, we see between the two columns what is evidently a Chinese export landscape painting, framed in the Western manner in dark wood with a gilt slip. Above the head of the musician is a framed composition of flowers and leaves which may represent an export reverse glass painting.

Reverse paintings on glass were widely exported from China from the mid-18th century. Exotic interiors sold especially well. This example is still in its original lacquered frame.

'The elegant setting here reads as an authentic presentation of Chinese domestic life, but upon reflection it reveals itself to be a highly contrived world created to please the customer. The hand-embroidered, long silk vests worn by the women and the lyre-player’s golden-phoenix hair ornament, with its jewel that sways with each toss of her head, suggest a lushly sensuous life far removed from the daily grind in Europe and post-colonial America, where the painting’s buyers were located.' Jan Stuart, Keeper of Asia at the British Museum

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From 1775 (circa) to 1785 (circa)


musical instruments, China, ,

Further details »


» glass (material)
» oil paint (paint)
» wood (plant material)


» glass painting (image making)
» lacquering

Production place

» China



Object number


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