This view of Victoria Peak and the Harbor below, depicts the busy international trade in Hong Kong after the British gained control of the port in 1842. Given the presence of the flag tower atop Victoria Peak, this was painted a few years afterward, circa 1855. This and the rise of the buildings up the vertical elevation of Victoria Peak help estimate the date of the painting.
Demand for tea, spices, silks, and Chinese silver helped establish some of the largest Western and Eastern fortunes of their day. Here, a variety of steam and sailing vessels fill the harbor including a rare number of American ships: a sidewheel steamer, a steam-sail side wheeler, and a bark at anchor. Other ships include older British ships, likely being used for storage in the harbor, and a Dutch full rigged ship with sails aloft. Several local vessels travel between the foreign ships, including fishing and merchant ships along with a group of colorful Chinese junks off to the right with red banners flying, fierce eyes painted on their bows.
Behind the harbor, Hong warehouses of the United States and France are seen along the shoreline with the multistoried British offices in the grove at the base of the peak. Further left is the four pointed tower of St. John's Cathedral, still standing today. Off to the right the view expands to show the mountains extending into Guangzhou (Canton) and Guangdong province.
Sharp details rise into a subtle depiction of the sky, with excellent contrast and warm luminous touches in the clouds. Paintings like this, which depict the important Chinese harbors and the ships which visited them throughout the 19th century, are desired for both their aesthetic beauty and historical record of Hong Kong's growth and change over the centuries.
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