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  • Object:

    Watercolour drawing

  • Place of origin:

    China (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    first quarter 19th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case TOPIC, shelf DP3

In the late 18th century European gardeners and plantsmen and women became more and more interested in plants from China. Many of our most familiar plants were introduced from China during this period. This was a consequence of trading contacts and plant hunting expeditions.

Collectors and botanists commissioned Chinese artists in the trading ports of Canton and Macao to paint Chinese plants. They gave the artists examples of European illustrations to copy and trained them in the conventions of Western botanical drawing. Although the Chinese artists were adept copyists, their drawings and watercolours can easily be distinguished from those by European artists. They tend to use a limited number of flat tones. Instead of producing a generalised image of the species they were representing, they usually made a literal portrait of a single specimen. This tendency is evident in this study. Each damaged leaf has been carefully and precisely represented. Such details were irrelevant for the purposes of identification and classification.

Physical description

Botanical study of a peanut plant with roots.

Place of Origin

China (probably, painted)


first quarter 19th century (painted)


Unknown (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on paper

Marks and inscriptions

watermark, lower left


Height: 47.8 cm, Width: 37 cm

Descriptive line

Peanut plant (Arachis hypogaea L.) by an unknown Chinese artist; watercolour; ca 1760-1825

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design & Department of Paintings, Accessions 1924, published under the Authority of the Board of Education, London, 1926.

Labels and date

Unknown artist
Peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.)
About 1760-1825

In Chinese flower painting, the natural forms were abstract and idealised. When working for European clients, Chinese artists were instructed to give precise botanical details. They often gave a literal transcription of the individual specimen. Thus in this picture of a peanut plant each yellowing and withered leaf is precisely delineated.

V&A: E.1754-1924 [2011]




Watercolour drawing

Subjects depicted

Peanut; Plant


Illustration; Science; Drawings; Gardens & Gardening


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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