The Huxinting Teahouse in Shanghai
  • Joseph Selleny
  • Vienna 1824 - 1875
  • The Huxinting Teahouse in Shanghai, 1858
  • Watercolour over chalk and pencil, on two sheets of paper,
  • both monogramed, dated and inscribed lower right:
    JS (interlaced) / 31 July Schang. Hai
    numbered: 646 and 647, inscribed in Chinese lower left
  • 328 × 495 mm , 316 × 472 mm
Estate of the artist, Vienna
sale with Wawra, Vienna 1884
private collection Austria

These sheets also date to the frigate Novara’s journey around the world. They are depictions of the famous Huxinting teahouse, then as now one of the main attractions of old Shanghai. This Pavilion in the Heart of the Lake was built in 1559 by Pan Yunduan, a high official of the Ming dynasty, as part of the large park complex of the Yu Garden. Only in 1855, during the Qing dynasty, did the pavilion obtain its current name and become the city’s first teahouse. Visitors reach the wood building only by crossing a zigzag bridge, which is meant to ward off evil spirits.

Joseph Selleny had stipulated that after the completion of the Novara expedition he would be able to use his stock of more than 2,000 sketches for a lithograph album as well as a painting cycle, the Character Sketch of the Earth. He was thus granted an exception and allowed to keep the studies in his own studio. However, neither project came to fruition.

After Selleny’s death and a memorial exhibition in Vienna’s Künstlerhaus from 1875 to 1876, only a few small groups of watercolours were acquired by various museums in Vienna and Pola (now in the Museo Storico Navale in Venice). His heirs sold the remaining 578 sheets through the Viennese auction house Wawra on February 29, 1884.