Monday, December 17, 2012

Hong Kong Island and Victoria Harbour

Hong Kong Island and Victoria Harbour, Chinese School C19th, c.1858-1875
oil on canvas, 45x79 cm

From the Bonhams catalogue: A late 19th-century traditional representation of Hong Kong Harbour at the zenith of its history as a storage and distribution outpost for Western traders en route to and from southern China. Amongst the traffic of vessels visible on the water are a prison hulk, paddle steamer, a ship flying the American colours in addition to a plethora of Chinese, European, commercial and fishing boats. The vessel flying a blue ensign in the left foreground can plausibly be identified as the Royal Naval warship, HMS 'Princess Charlotte', which was deployed as a 'receiving ship' in Hong Kong Harbour between 1858-1875, providing temporary accommodation for sailors not yet assigned to a particular crew.

The city of Victoria can be seen from the north, across the harbour, from the Kowloon Peninsula. The 'godown' of Jardine Matheson and Company - the dominant trading enterprise along the Chinese coast - is visible on the far left. On the summit of Victoria Peak, the grouping of flags indicates the presence of the Hong Kong Signal Station, the construction of which marked the first building on the Peak in 1861.