Spoilum (Guan Zuolin)
(Chinese/Guangzhou, active 1770-1810)
"Portrait of a Captain of the British East Indies Company"
oil on canvas
unsigned, a "Vose Galleries/Boston, Massachusetts" label en verso.
17-1/2" x 14", framed 23-1/2" x 20-1/4"
Provenance: Estate of Dr. Carroll Ball, Jackson, Mississippi.
Notes: The Cantonese artist Guan Zuolin, colloquially known as Spoilum, was one of the first Chinese artists to work in oil on canvas as opposed to the more usual inks and colors on paper or silk. A resident of the busy port city of Guangzhou, the only Chinese city to allow trade between Chinese and Westerners, Spoilum taught himself Western art techniques by copying British paintings and prints. He specialized in portraits of British and American naval officers and prosperous local merchants, though he was also known to produce the souvenir landscapes popular with the Western visitors to the city. His portraits, as evidenced by the one of an unidentified officer presented here, are almost always in Â¾ length, against a vague background, the sitter gazing directly at the viewer, rendered in a minimal palette of black and flesh-tones with little interplay of light and shadow - all of which serve to emphasize the features of the sitter.
Works by Spoilum are conserved in numerous maritime museums including the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.