A Study of a Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum)
An Indian Hill Myna with distinctive pale yellow feathers around the eye, perches on the branch of a rambutan tree. The bird is elegantly framed by delicate stems of rich green pinnate leaves, with pale green undersides. Under the watchful gaze of the bird, the fruits of the rambutan appear covered with fleshy pliable spines, from which they derive the name ‘hairy’. As with the other paintings in this collection, the artist has depicted the growth cycle of the fruits, which turn a vivid orange-red colour when ripe. A fruit that has had some of its skin removed to illustrate the sweet pale flesh inside, also appears in the foreground. The artist has also depicted a small cluster of petite white flowers as they begin to open. Similarly to works in the Reeves Collection, the painting also depicts two withered yellow and brown leaves that appear to be diseased (see John Reeves Collection of Botanical Drawings, Natural History Museum, London, pl. 23). This may reflect the preference amongst Chinese artists of the period for demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of their subjects, rather than simply presenting them in an idealised fashion.
Rambutan trees are native to Indonesia and tropical Southeast Asia. As well as having a number of medicinal properties, the leaves and fruit were used to dye batiks red and the shoots could be prepared to dye silk fabrics green.