This is one of the set of 4 paintings that are very rare with two characeteristics that make them unique.
First, the blue/green background is seen only in a handful of Yao ceremonial paintings. These are highly prized finds for their rarity as well as their aesthetic value.
Second, the painting style is very unique - there are characters on a plain background without any embellishment of the background. These are works of 'naive' art. It could be that he had not yet come within the folds of influence of the styles that were popular elsewhere and his personal style remained uncorrupted by the 'popular' view. As a result the artist we see the stamp of his own soul on the painting, rather than just that of his ethnic group. And it is this soul-stamp that makes this set of 4 pieces extremely charming.
The Subject: Four Heavenly Messengers Upon the Animals of Supernatural Power
This folk painting depicts the Four Heavenly Messengers, minor deities in the Taoist pantheon. They are the Taoist monitors of human conduct as they observe, record and report acts by all humans to the Jade emperor so that good can be rewarded and bad punished. Each messenger is on his way to the heavens and carries a scroll in his hand. The First Heavenly Messenger rides a phoenix and is a year deity. The Second Heavenly Messenger is on a white horse and represents months. The Third Heavenly Messenger is carried by a dragon and is the day deity. Finally, the Fourth Heavenly Messenger rides the tiger and is the hour deity. At the bottom there is the local God of Earth and, kneeling between this deity and the black horse, a shaman or court messenger. All message scrolls are eventually handed to the First Heavenly Messenger on his phoenix and he takes the message to heaven.
The piece comes from the north of Vietnam from ethnic minorities (Yao, Tay, Nung, Cao Lan, San Chi) whose belief system often mixes Daoism with elements of Buddhism, Confucianism and animism.
Has an inscription on the side.
There is fading and wear due to age.
26 x 12 inches.
Estimated to be from the mid 1900s