César Guillén Nuñez*

View of Inner Harbour (watercolour on paper; signed; c.1875-80; (formerly Martyn Gregory Collection) Leal Senado, Luís de Camões Museum)

Marciano António Baptista was Macau's best nineteenth century pointer. Although his work did not go completely unnoticed during his lifetime, it is only in our century that there have been sporadic attempts to assess its true value.

In Macau, his paintings caught the attention of the more cultivated some twenty years after his death. Silva Mendes, writing in 1914, called him a "notable watercolourist".1 in 1918, Humberto de Avelar, editor of the short-lived magazine Macau, described him as "the best artist ever born in Macau" after selecting one of his sketches for the cover. 2 Ten years later, Maria Anna Tamagnini reviewed an exhibition held in the former Governor's Summer House at Flora Gardens, one of the first art exhibitions in the territory's history, and commented that besides George Chinnery, the exhibition made it clear that "there were others who in this land showed undeniable artistic merit, a Barão do Cercal, a Marciano Baptista, and many others".3

Marciano Baptista was born in Macau on the 5th of June, 1826. Little is known of his early childhood, except that he was the illegitimate son of Manuel Joaquim Baptista and of Ana Lauriana, although his father later legitimized the relationship. It seems his childhood was not spent in wealthy surroundings, but he was sent, nonetheless, to St. Joseph's Seminary, at the time a rather respectable school for boys, with a strong Portuguese Roman Catholic orientation. He is known to have matriculated from there in June, 1838, that is, as a primary school boy of twelve. 4 It may be gathered from these scant but revealing facts that his was the fairly typical upbringing of a Macanese boy. It was also during his early youth that he is said to have met the English painter George Chinnery.

View of Hong Kong Island (watercolour on paper; signed; c.1875-80, Martyn Gregory Gallery)

Family traditions would trace Baptista's friendship with the English painter to his boyhood, when he is supposed to have tagged along with the older man, willing to perform any task to remain with him, including mixing his colours. 5 This rather touching story appears to be quite likely and one could well imagine that, eventually, a somewhat more serious master-apprentice relationship developed. Like many apprentices, Baptista would continue to copy his master's pictures later on in his life, though by then he was also interpreting Chinnery's themes in his own style. Baptista's later works also give indications of this apprenticeship, not only on thematic and stylistic grounds, but more concretely, in a few inscriptions on his paintings. One of the watercolours attributed to him, and shown in the first one-man exhibition of his works, organized by the Leal Senado a couple of years ago, bears the caption "after Chinnery". Even as late as the 1850s Baptista advertised his works with newspaper advertisements that read:"Views of Hong Kong, Macau, etc. after the late Mr. Chinnery".6 It can be supposed that it was soon after Baptista's graduation from St. Joseph's that his association with Chinnery began, though he may have met the artist before then, at the time when Chinnery was residing in the Rua de Inácio Baptista, quite near St. Joseph's. 7

The late 1830s were years of great artistic productivity for Chinnery. As the best secular Western artist to have settled in South China up to that time, he had become a highly successful portrait painter, particularly amongst members of the English East India Company, then a dominating force in India, Macau, Canton and elsewhere in the East. After various lodgings, Chinnery finally rented a house in the Rua de Inácio Baptista, just behind the handsome Neoclassical church of São Lourenço and close to the grand offices of the East India Company facing the Praia Grande. In his studio there, the aging artist also produced medium-sized watercolours of Macau and Canton. He had, by then, developed a small following amongst a number of expatriates wishing to learn the rudiments of drawing and watercolour painting. 8 It is evident from his many surviving sketches, that Chinnery informally taught the comparatively new method of the watercolour, as well as certain of the classical tenets he had learnt at the prestigious Royal Academy of London. It was teachings such as these that Baptista must have picked up from him. The English nineteenth century landscape tradition is one which we should keep in mind when considering Baptista's work, since I regard it as forming one of the two major influences discernable in his art.

The second half of Baptista's life was not as uneventful as his quietly sunny watercolours would lead one to believe. Historically, in China, the century had been rent in two by the Opium War of 1839-42.

The city of Macau itself, in the estimation of eyewitnesses, came near to collapse. The Abbé Huc ruefully commented that It looked like a city of elegant mansions empty of tenants, and did not give it more than a few years before It would cease to exist. 9 An anonymous American diarist who stopped there in 1857 or 58, corroborated this opinion by remarking that "Macao appears to be in a state of decay".10 A number of important chroniclers, from the Abbé down to Montalto de Jesus at the end of the century, thought that the opening of Hong Kong as a free port had been the main cause of all this. 11

D. Maria II Fortress (watercolour on paper; signed; c.1875-80; Martyn Gregory Gallery)

As far as Baptista's private life is concerned, the half century was marked by a characteristic flight to Hong Kong. This move took place either in the late 1840's or sometime during the next decade. By 1857 he was definitely residing at 2 Oswald's Terrace with his family12, and he would remain in the British colony for the remainder of his life. Such a move could well have been caused by Macau's deteriorating condition. Montalto de Jesus has left us a gloomy account of the fate that befell those Macanese who ventured into the neighbouring colony. 13 Although Baptista's lot does not appear to have been as sad, it certainly was not easy. His flight to Hong Kong was also influenced by his marriage in 1848 to Maria Josefa do Ro-sário, and by his need to finance a family that steadily grew in numbers, by some counts, to as many as twelve. In Manuel da Silva Mendes' phrase, which is in itself an indictment: "Marciano era pobre, e Macau, Hongkong e Cantão não são terras que alimentem poetas ou artistas no exercicio de altas e puras realizações estéticas".14 ('Marciano was poor, and Macau, Hong Kong and Canton are not lands that feed poets or artists in search of high and pure aesthetic pursuits"). Consequently, we find Baptista as an artistic Jack-of-all-trades: a painter, teacher, freelance illustrator, scenographer and apparently, towards the end of the century, also a photographer.

When finally settled in Hong Kong, however, Baptista's art did not go completely unnoticed. A limited, but quite significant number of contemporary references give indications of a degree of recognition, at least amongst art lovers. An unsigned letter to the China Mail of the 3rd of September, 1857, the first known mention of the Macanese artist in the British colony, is a good example. It pleads for support from the public for Baptista's art, instead of the more mechanical productions of Chinese artists doing similar works. 15 The latter is an obvious reference to the less gifted "China Trade" craftsmen-painters who proliferated at this time.

Guia Hill (pencil sketch on paper; signed, c.1875-80; Francisco Jorge collection, Luís de Camões Museum)

What kind of paintings were these, and what was so special about their artistic quality? We may divide them into several main groups: 1) larger, more finished views of harbour scenes and landscapes, mainly in watercolours;2) album sets of medium-sized waterfront views of Treaty Port cities and other localities, recording a trip in the form of mementoes or souvenirs, also in watercolour;3) sketches and paintings of popular street scenes; 4) historical drawings or paintings. Apart from these main types, he is known to have painted stage sets or scenery, as well as illustrations for magazines, including the lllustrated London News.

The above division serves merely as a practical aid in sorting out his known works. But it does show that the first three genres fall well within the productions of China Trade artists. Patrick Conner has pointed out Baptista's debt, through Chinnery, to the topographical picture, as evolved by English artists, and its aesthetics of the "picturesque". In my opinion, this other China Trade current, more commercially oriented, was also to influence Baptista's art, if perhaps only as a secondary influence. I would make this claim based on a stylistic study of the works available, as well as details of his technique, and his methods of producing and advertising his works.

Although Baptista's palette was a limited one, with a preference for the primaries blue and red, as well as greens and browns, he often uses his brush in a Chinese manner. To take but one example, if we examine his depiction of the Bund in Foochow, in the Luís de Camõs Museum collection, we can observe how he applies a flat red outline to delineate structures in his buildings, with no attempt to produce three-dimensional effects. Baptista combines this kind of handling with Western perspective and colour. One of his most characteristic colours is blue, with which he creates subtle harmonies difficult to imagine without the Oriental milieu in which he moved. Similar observations could be made about his treatment of Junks and trees.

One of Baptista's more pleasing activities must have been his association with Chinese artists in Hong Kong, thus contributing to one of the first exchanges of ideas on Western and Chinese techniques of painting. Similar exchanges, and the ensuing interest in Western painting on the part of Japanese and Chinese artists, were eventually to play an important role in the evolution of contemporary painting in Canton. Silva Mendes already noted the growth of a "new school" in Japan.

The fourth type of painting, that dealing with historical events, was also typical of Western art. Silva Mendes for one, had a rather low opinion of them. If his opinion was correct, then the number of history paintings or drawings Baptista produced could not have been too large. The writer also called the painter a scenographer, and singles out a scene painted by Baptista for Hong Kong's City Hall, which was still held in good esteem in his own days. 16Whether or not he was referring to a stage set for the elegant and spacious Theatre Royal of the City Hall (Inaugurated with an amateur theatrical production in November, 1869), is not known. Present research would tend to refute this.'17 However, it is known that Baptista did design a set for the visiting English showman Albert Smith, in the late 1850s, who had been impressed by his "clever sketches'.18 There may have been others.

Baptista's works show us a Macau that was already disappearing. Not only did he see and paint evocative pagodas, forts and nineteenth century European and Chinese buildings, but Macau's, Hong Kong's and Canton's waters were dotted with graceful and colourful vessels of various kinds. Apart from these vessels, somewhere in the distance, the artist also often introduces steamboats, almost symbolic of the approaching age.

We may gather that Baptista revisited his native city at least once. during this period of his life. This is proved by the sketch of the Guia Hill dated 1875. Macau had passed through, but a year before, the most terrible typhoon in its four-hundred year history, The almost melancholy mood of this drawing, with the distant hill and fort, an image of Macau's (and Baptista's) endurance, is one that tells us much about the artist and his art.

The artist was to pass away on the 18th of December, 1896, in his home at Caine Road on Hong Kong Island.

The watercolours from the Martyn Gregory collection were part of an album and were signed 'M. B.', the usual way for the artist to sign his works. Both his initials on the tower right of the page. and a handwritten description of the painting on the tower left. were written in pencil on the paper on which the watercolours were mounted and not on the actual watercolour. as would have been the usual way for Baptista to sign his works.


Berry-Hill, Henry and Sidney: Chinnery and China Coast Painting, Lelght-on-Sea.1970.

Brito Peixoto, R.: Dragões No Mar. Os Pescadores Chineses de Macau, Museu e Centro de Estudos Marítimos, Macau, 1989.

Cameron. N.: Barbarians and Mandarins, Thirteen Centuries of Western Travellers In China, New York, 1970.

Carmona. B. Leonel, A.: Lorchas, Juncos e Outros Barcos Usados no Sul da China, Imprensa Oficial de Macau, 1985.

Clark, K. M.: Landscape Into Art, London, Sedgwick, 1950.

Clunas, C.: Chinese Export Watercolours, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1984.

Coates. A.; Prelude to Hong Kong, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1966.

Collis, M,, Foreign Mud. Faber and Faber. London, 1946.

Conner, P.; The China Trade 1600-1860. The Royal Pavilion, Art Gallery & Museum, Brighton, 1986. Cremer, R. D. ed.: Macau. City of Commerce and Culture, UEA Press Ltd., Hong Kong, 1990 edition.

Crossman, C. L.: The China Trade. Export Paintings. Furniture, Silver and Other Objects, Princeton. 1972

Gomes. L. G., Efemérides da Historic de Macau, (Colecção Notícias de Macau), vl. xll, Macau, 1954 Hong Kong Museum of Art: Gateways to China, Trading Ports of the 18th and 19th Centuries. (intro. by J. S. P. Ting), Urban Council of Hong Kong, 1987. George Chinnery, His Pupils and Influence. (intro. by G. W. Bonsall). Hong Kong Urban Council 1985. Tingqua: Paintings from His Studio. (intro. by J. Warner), Hong Kong Urban Council 1976. Hutcheon, R.: Chinnery The Man and the Legend, South China Morning Post Ltd., Hong Kong, 1975. Institute Cultural de Macau, Pinturas da "China Trade", (intro. by C. Guillén Nunez), Instituto Cultural de Macau, undated.

Ljungstedt, A: An Historical Sketch of the Portuguese Settlements In China, Boston, James Munroe, 1836.

Luís de Camões Museum: George Chinnery. Macau. (intro. by C. Guillén Nunez). Leal Senado de Macau, 1985.

Martyn Gregory Gallery: (Catalogue 40), Dr. Thomas Boswall Watson, (intro. by F. Rowse and M. Gregory), London, 1985.

--: (Catalogue 53). In the Western Manner, London, 1989.

Montalto de Jesus, C. A.; Historic Macao, second ed., Salesian Printing Press, Macau, 1926; Oxford University Press reprint. Hong Kong. 1984.

Orange, J.: The Chafer Collection, Pictures Relating to China. Hongkong, Macao. 1655 -1860. Thornton Butterworth Ltd., London, 1924.

Schurmann, F., Schell O., ed.: Imperial China. China Readings 1. The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Penguin, 1977.

Silva Mendes. M. da: Colectânea die Artigos de Manuel da Silva Mendes, (published by L. G. Gomes), Macau, 1963; reprinted as Arte Chinesa, Leal Senado de Macau. 1983.

Teixeira, M.: George Chinnery, No Bicentenário do Seu Nascimento, 1774 -1974. Macau, 1974.

--: Toponímia de Macau, VI, II, Macau, Imprensa Nacional, 1981.


1 Silva Mendes, Manuel da: "Um Museu em Macau. O Progresso, Yr. 1, Macau, 29th November, 1914, No13 (unsigned editorial).

2 Macau, Semanário Artístico. Literário e Social. Yr. 1, vol. 1, 16th December, 1918, p. 16 (unnumbered).

3 Tamagnini, M. A.: "Uma Exposição de Arte em Macau', Monografias. artigos, mapas e gráficos estatísticos de Macau na exposição Portuguesa em Sevilha, Macau, 1929, p.97.

4 Main biographical dates according to M. Teixeira in Teixeira, M.: Toponimia de Macau, vol. 2, Macau, Imprensa Nacional, 1981, pp. 413-415; George Chinnery, No Bicentenário do Seu Nascimento. 1774-1974, Macau, 1974, pp.115-118.

5 Hayes, Holly: "Tribute to Chinnery's pupil, Baptista legend prevails'. South China Morning Post. 30th March, 1975. Also, Silva Mendes, Manuel da: "Notas Soltas Sobre a Arte Chinesa" in Macau, Semanário Artístico, Literário e Social. Yr. 1, 23rd December, 1918, p.26.

6 China Mall, 3 Sept. and 5 Nov., 1857 advertisements under "Miscellaneous".

7 Teixeira, M.; George Chinnery. pp.82-88.

8 On Chinnery's pupils, vid. George Chinnery, His Pupils and Influence, Hong Kong Museum of Art, catalogue to the 15.3.-14.4, 1985 exhibition, Urban Council of Hong Kong publication.

9 Huc, M.: The Chinese Empire, Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, London, 1855, p.144.

10 Underdown, M.: Macao In 1857, Macau, Imprensa Nacional, 1974, p.6. The anonymous diarist also states that Macao was recovering due to the stoppage of the Canton trade.

11 Hue. M.; op cit.; Montalto de Jesus, C. A.: Historic Macao, Oxford University Press, 1984 reprint, pp.364-67. Macau underwent a revival in the 1860s, under Governor Coelho de Amoral.

12 Advertisements in the China Mall of 3rd Sept. and 5th Nov., 1857, give his address as 2 Oswald's Terrace. Baptista was apparently living in the same building where Lamqua, Chinnery's most famous and controversial Chinese follower also resided. Hutcheon, R.: Chinnery, The Man and the Legend. Hong Kong, 1975, p. 135.

13 Montalto de Jesus, op. cit., p.366.

14 Silva Mendes, "Notas Soltas", op. cit., p.27.

15 "The labourer is worthy of his hirel", China Mall, Letters to the Editor, 3 Sept, 1857, Nº 655,

16 Silva Mendes mentions a painting of Camões, evidently a history painting, said to have been taken to England and now untraceable. He also lists Baptista's main genres as landscapes, Chinese scenes and history scenes, apart from his theatre scene paintings. Silva Mendes, op. cit., p.27, and p.28 for his references to the Escola Nova in Japan.

17 The Public Records Office, Hong Kong, has no record of Baptista's activities as scenographer at the old City Hall theatre.

18 Smith, Albert: To China and Back, London, 1859, p.26. Also vid. Orange, J.: The Chater Collection. Pictures Relating to China. Hong Kong, Macao, 1655-1860, Thornton Butterworth Ltd, London, 1924. who recounts A. Smith's arrival in Hong Kong in 1858. J. Orange catalogues a number of works which he attributes to Baptista, vid. p. 300 and pp.365-66. However, the watercolour of "The Racecourse at Happy Valley" was apparently signed. Ibid., pp.362-63.

*MA in Art History (University of Pennsylvania. USA) specialising in the Baroque Art of Latin America, Spain and Portugal. Born in Panama. he studied in various European cities and lectured in Art History before going to Macau to work as Assistant Curator of the Luís de Camões Museum (Leal Senado de Macau) where he is currently responsible for organising exhibitions and conducting rematch on the aft and history of Macau. He has written several articles and books and has organised exhibition of the work of George Chinnery and the first major exhibition of work by the Macanese artist Marciano Baptista.

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