A Study of a Chinese Chestnut (Sterculia monosperma)

Probably Macau or Canton, China, 18th-19th century

Watercolour on paper

46.5cm x 35cm

Object header
  • Additional
  • Additional

Full Description

A Study of a Chinese Chestnut (Sterculia monosperma)

This tree illustration depicts a bifurcating central branch whose adolescent leaves are pale green and deep red while those fully matured appear in vivid dark green flourishes. A thin stem droops, laden with delicate white flowers, above which another branch whose thick buds appear ready to bloom in an instant. Striking orange-red dehiscent pods reveal dark brown seeds, one of which has been cut open to illustrate the edible nut inside.

An inscription in Chinese reads pin po, which closely resembles the characters for the Chinese chestnut, ping po. As with our illustration of the Star Fruit, Averrhoa carambola, the inscription also bears comparison with those of the Reeves Collection of botanical drawings. A pencil inscription also appears on the back of the work, which may be a reference to the genus of the plant. The paper itself bears the watermark of J. Whatman, whose mill in Kent supplied the finest quality watercolour paper to the East India Company during the 18th century.  


Dozier, L (ed.). Natural History Drawings, The Complete William Farquhar Collection, Malay Peninsula 1803-1818, Singapore, National Museum of Singapore, 2010.

Magee, J. Chinese Art and the Reeves Collection, Natural History Museum, London, 2013.

Noltie, H.J. Raffles Ark Redrawn: Natural History Drawings from the Collection of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, London, The British Library, 2012.

Welby Bailey, C.F. The Reeves Collection, an Investigation into Chinese Botanical Drawings, their Identification and Conservation. University of the Arts, London 2011.

A Study of a Chinese Chestnut (Sterculia monosperma)