A CHINESE EXPORT PAINTING DEPICTING CANTON AFTER THE GREAT FIRE OF 1-2 NOVEMBER 1822
Canton, circa 1822
Oil on canvas, 36 cm x 35.5 cm
In a tortoiseshell and ebonized frame.
This picture illustrates the remains of the Dutch, English, American and Spanish Hongs and the quayside a few days after the fire of November 2, 1822. Salvaged goods and most of the rubble has been cleared away and Chinese soldiers have set up tents and banners on the Square to prevent looting, but there is only one soldier to be seen, standing beside the second tent from the bottom. A lot of somewhat random activity is going on on the river bank. After the fire James Urmston, chief of the English Company’s Select Committee, proposed to take over from the Dutch the lease on their factory and to dispose of the old English factory. The Dutch no longer played a major role in the Canton trade and the Dutch factory chief, Johannes Bletterman, even made Urmston an offer. Still, in the end, Urmston was not able to convince his colleagues on the four-person Select Committee.