Reflected Beauty 鏡花薈萃
Chinese Reverse Glass Paintings from the Mei Lin Collection 梅林珍藏的中國玻璃畫
ISBN : 978-988-74707-4-8
Distributed for HKU Museum and Art Gallery 香港大學美術博物館
196 pages, 8.25″ x 10.625″, 92 color illus.
Reverse paintings on glass occupy a special place in Chinese art, spanning the genres of glass working, export art, folk art, erotica, and meiren hua (paintings of beauties). Their unique appearance is the result of a challenging production process in which artists layer pigments in the reverse order of the normal painting procedure–highlights first, then mid-layers, and finally base colours. The final product is viewed in reverse from the opposite side of the glass, which must also be considered when creating the paintings.
A product of the encounter between East and West, the manufacture of glass paintings in China was stimulated by European glass paintings brought to the imperial court by traders and diplomats in the seventeenth century. Initially made in Canton for Western consumers, by the eighteenth century their production had spread throughout China, with subjects and styles adapted to suit local tastes.
The glass paintings in the Mei Lin Collection represent this later flowering of works for the domestic market. Largely ignored by scholars and collectors in favour of exoticized paintings for the West, they depict romantic landscapes, traditional motifs of happiness, scenes from plays and novels, and the changing image of the Chinese woman, demonstrating the diverse appeal of this unique and fragile art form.
The reverse glass paintings presented in this publication and its accompanying exhibition are all from the Mei Lin Collection. Composed of over one hundred works acquired in East Asia between 1968 and 2012, it is one of the world’s most important collections of Chinese reverse glass paintings from the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The collection was assembled by Mr. Rupprecht Mayer and his wife Ms Liem Haitang. Parts of the collection have been shown in the City Museum of Augsburg, Germany, and in the Swiss Glass Museum in Romont, Switzerland.