Original watercolour, captioned: "To ti kong Small Temple nr. Macao".
To ti kong Small Temple nr. Macao

Macau: probably mid-1844.

Watercolour, 215 x 290 mm; ink caption at lower right; in mount.

Original watercolour of an important Macau temple

An important original watercolour by the English artist and architect Edward Ashworth who travelled through Macau and Hong Kong in the 1840s. The T'ou T'ei Temple in Patane, Macau, situated near the Luís de Camões Garden, is among the oldest and most famous of such temples.

An important original watercolour by the English artist and architect Edward Ashworth who travelled through Macau and Hong Kong in the 1840s. The T'ou T'ei Temple in Patane, Macau, situated near the Luís de Camões Garden, is among the oldest and most famous of such temples.

"To ti kong Small Temple nr. Macao"

T'ou T'ei (Tu Di Gong / To ti kong), the 'God of Earth', held sway over all the land. There are many temples dedicated to T'ou T'ei in Macau, a god commonly worshipped for centuries on the peninsula and neighbouring islands. Among the oldest and most famous is the T'ou T'ei Temple in Patane (Pou Tai Un), of which Guillén-Nuñez has identified this Ashworth watercolour to be a rare, early view. The Patane shrine, always significant, may take on more importance given the recent proposal by Macao officials to declare the earth god Tou Tei a UNESCO World Heritage.

Sitting at the junction between the Rua da Palmeira and the Rua do Patane, the temple rises up on a granite footing by the base of the Luís de Camões Garden. Wooded and hilly, this adjacent garden was formerly part of the residence of the China director of the English East India Company, and therefore known as Casa Garden. The British vacated the house and grounds in 1835, presumably due to the loss of the tea monopoly during the course of their renewal of charter in 1833. The new owner, a Portuguese, had a grotto built in the grounds in which he placed the bust of Portugal's national poet Luís de Camões, since Macau tradition argues that the poet wrote part of his epic poem The Lusiads in the vicinity of the present garden sometime in 1557. Because of the area's legacy Ashworth, along with other Europeans, would have had privileged access to the garden, a popular destination for this relatively small community.

The angle of this intimate painting is an interesting one for Ashworth. Taken from an unusual viewpoint, this is his most adventurous attempt at a picturesque composition, of a playful interplay between foreground and background to be found within the catalogue. There is no dominant, central vanishing point, rather an askew view with the temple's entrance partially concealed and again further concealed by overhanging foliage. Ashworth painstakingly reproduced the various woven decoration ornamenting the transverse beams. While overall, the rectilinear structure of the temple is amplified and offset by the streaming and fanning fronds of bamboo which appear to press and squeeze against it upon either side. The only glimpse we have of the expansive garden landscape beyond appears within the frame of one of the large roundels or 'moon gates' of the temple's projecting walls.

Edward Ashworth

Edward Ashworth was born near Exeter, Devon in 1814, and trained as an articled apprentice to Robert Cornish, architect to Exeter Cathedral. He then moved to London to work under another Exeter-born man, Charles Fowler, architect to the Duke of Bedford and a founder-member of the Institute of British Architects.

Unhappy with the quality of his commissions, Ashworth decided to immigrate to New Zealand. Aged 28, he left England in May 1842 aboard the ship Tuscan, bound for Auckland. The trip included a brief stay in Melbourne, landing at Port Phillip in September 1842. Ashworth continued on to Auckland, arriving a month later in October. After failing to find work as an architect he accepted a position as tutor to the children of the first New Zealand Governor, William Hobson, recently deceased. Other tutoring posts soon came his way. During his two-year stay, Ashworth made numerous watercolours of Auckland and its street life including an expedition into the Waikato, now treasured views of the very first stages of colonial occupation. This was to become a habit, drawing and painting the landscapes and streetscapes of each place he visited. In 1843 he gave a lecture to the local Mechanics Institute on Greek architecture in which his drawings were widely admired for their 'exquisite' quality.

By early 1844 he had decided to make his way back to England via a slow sojourn in China – presumably he had heard of the sudden flurry of building construction then underway in Hong Kong. Ashworth left Auckland in February 1844 arriving for the second time in Australia that same month, this time in Sydney, New South Wales. He spent three months in that city, again painting and drawing, before heading across to Hong Kong aboard the American ship Navigator by way of Batavia (Jakarta) and Macau. The timing was impeccable. The first 'official' land auction of Hong Kong under Crown sovereignty had taken place just a few months earlier, in January 1844, and a building boom ensued. Now, finally, he could find actual architectural commissions and build.

Ashworth returned to England in 1846 and set up practice in Exeter. His first job in the county was as clerk of works for Up Ottery Manor, a new, suitably expansive neo-Tudor pile, which he completed for the 2nd Viscount Sidmouth in 1847. Here, in bucolic Devon, he remained until his death in 1896, devoting much of his work to the restoration of parish churches.

Ashworth's newly-discovered watercolours of Macau add significantly to the corpus of material explored by previous European painters such as the Daniells, William Alexander, Auguste Borget and George Chinnery, although with a greater urbanity and intimacy to the settings, partly as a result of his close interest in detail, particularly architectural.

Provenance

Edward Ashworth's family, by descent, in a group of drawings.

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Chris Cowell who prepared a skilful analysis of the Ashworth drawings; for information summarised here we also thank Marian Minson and the staff of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand; Cesar Guillen Nuñez, Historian of Art at the Macau Ricci Institute, Macau; Dr. Stuart Braga, Sydney; Sarah Cunich, Hong Kong; the staff of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, and the National Library of Australia, Canberra.

Bibliography: Ashworth

Ashworth, E. 'Chinese Architecture.' In Detached Essays and Illustrations Issued During the Years 1850- 51. London: Architectural Publication Society, 21 February 1853. (Essay first published in 1851); Cates, Arthur. 'The Dictionary of Architecture. A Retrospect. 1848-1892.' In Dictionary of Architecture, edited by Wyatt Papworth, 1-3. London: Architectural Publication Society, 1892; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscript Collection, State Library of New South Wales: Edward Ashworth – Records (1842-1844), Microfilm of journal, notebooks and sketchbooks of travels in Australia, New Zealand and China 1842-44 [1 reel, FM 4/3403]; National Library of Australia, Papers [M602] microform: Ashworth, Edward, 1814-1896; Platts, Una. Nineteenth Century New Zealand Artists: A Guide & Handbook. Christchurch: Avon Fine Prints, 1980; National Library of New Zealand, Ref: MSGroup-1954, Edward Ashworth Journals (1841-45) & Ref: E-042, Edward Ashworth Sketchbook (1844).

Bibliography: Macau

Cremer, R.D., ed. Macau: City of Commerce and Culture. Hong Kong: UEA Press, 1987; Guillén-Nuñez, César. Macao Streets. Hong Kong; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999; Orange, James. The Chater Collection: Pictures Relating to China, Hong Kong, Macao, 1655-1860. London: Thornton Butterworth, 1924; Porter, Jonathan. Macau, the Imaginary City: Culture and Society, 1557 to the Present. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996; Shipp, Steve. Macau, China: A Political History of the Portuguese Colony's Transition to Chinese Rule. Jefferson, N. Carolina; London: McFarland & Co. Inc., 1997.

Hordern House catalogue Edward Ashworth, Artist & Architect (available online at www.hordern.com)

Price (AUD): $6,000.00  other currencies     Ref: #4504038

Condition Report