Length: 20 1/8 inches, 51 cm
Width: 8 1/8 inches, 20.7 cm

Set of four iron “paintings”, tiehua

China, 19th century

A set of four iron paintings, depicting respectively a gnarled branch of flowering camellia, lotus flowers, chrysanthemums and peonies. The plants are all made of wrought iron elements, which are crafted individually and jointed together with bolts. Each painting is contained within a hardwood frame.

This set of four panels is an excellent example of iron imitating ink painting. Terese Bartholomew states that to find camellia, lotus flowers, chrysanthemums and peonies together means “May you enjoy wealth and honour”.1 The four flowers represent the seasons: the peony, known as the flower of wealth and honour, stands for spring, the lotus for summer, the chrysanthemum for autumn and the camellia for winter. A set of comparable iron paintings depicting plants is in the John Reilly Jr. collection and illustrated in The Romance of Chinese Art.2

  1. Tse Bartholomew, T. Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 2006, 6.34.5 p. 156
  2. Hobson, R. L. The Romance of Chinese Art, 1929, Garden City Publishing, New York, pl. 46-6, p. 163