Such a fine, beautiful thing! This is a 19th century Chinese painting executed in gouache on pith paper--a type of paper (resembling rice paper) that came into use in China in the 1820s (reaching its heyday in the 1830s and 40s) as a means to satisfy the increasing demand for small, inexpensive and easily transported souvenirs, following the massive growth in the China Trade in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Pith paper was made from the cellular tissue found in the stem of a small tree called Tetrapanax Papyrifera, native to south-west China.
Pith paintings typically depicted local subjects such as cultivated flora, indigenous birds and insects, and local trades, customs and costumes. This one I believe would be referred to as an "occupational" painting, featuring two workers using a Chinese wheelbarrow--distinct from European wheelbarrows in its design, with one large wheel in the middle of the vehicle, enabling the carriage of much greater weight. The figures, in their blue and gray worker's clothing, the cart, and the bags with which it is weighted, are finely, elegantly rendered; just lovely. On the right side of this piece in black is hand-written text, perhaps descriptive of the painting, and on the lower right appears to be a signature in red--a rarity among pith paintings as I understand it.
This painting is in very good antique condition. There is a bit of rippling of, a few very minor spots on, and one very small hole in the pith paper. It is for sale as I found it--with a double matte (tan over white) and in a wooden frame painted silver with black speckles. The frame is paper backed and wired for hanging. Image size: 8 1/4" x 7 1/2"; frame: 13 1/2" x 12 3/8".