15 Feb 2020
Collection & Artist Series

William Farquhar: The New Collection

After the wonderful reception of our first William Farquhar collection we worked together with the National Museum of Singapore to select four more of these wonderful botanical drawings.

William Farquhar gifts

William Farquhar was a Scottish officer in the East India Company’s army. His familiarity with regional politics allowed him and Raffles to secure a Treaty in 1819 in Singapore.


William Farquhar showed a great interest in natural history and made many zoological discoveries. He kept all kinds of animals, from leopards to elephants. Later, he donated skeletal head parts of various animals such as tigers, elephants, panthers, wild pigs and a Malayan Tapir. He often studied the growth of animals and loved to draw sketches of them. He also commissioned several watercolor Chinese artists to paint the local flora and fauna, resulting in a collection of 477 watercolor drawings of animals and plants of Malacca and Singapore.On 17 June 1826, Farquhar donated the sketches in eight volumes to the Museum of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland.


The Lesser Mousedeer: This delightful little animal is the smallest known hoofed mammal in the world; it is only the size of a large rabbit. Widespread throughout Southeast Asia and southern China, it is still possible to spot this animal in the rainforests of Malaysia and Singapore, where it mainly comes out at night. This elegant drawing will add a sophisticated touch to any home décor.


The Magpie Robin: This is one of the most numerous and conspicuous birds of Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, is found in rural areas such as kampongs. It is uncommon in Singapore, where the population was decimated by the caged bird trade. The drawing shows a male, hunting a grasshopper sitting above it.  This bird is known for its pretty and melodious song. Its ability to sing well and a common name has given it fame. The magpie is also a good luck symbol that indicates joy, love and lasting fortune.


The Malaysian Tapir: This is a young animal as revealed by the characteristics of its fur – the spots help it hide. This species is mainly from a primary rainforest, but it sometimes moved into nearby cultivation at night to feed on fresh grass and leaves. It is currently endangered and faces global extinction due to habitat loss and hunting.  We think that this animal is significant because it was the first animal William Farquhar saw in Malaya.


The Black-capped Kingfisher: The distinctive features show well in this drawing. This migratory species is a fairly common winter visitor on the Malay peninsula coming from its breeding grounds further north in subtropical and temperate East Asia. Kingfishers are a symbol of peace, promising prosperity and loved. They are often spotted in Singapore freshwater and coastal wetlands.  

Birds of Singapore bookendsTrinket box botanical Singapore artworkWilliam Farquhar corporate gifts

Qua is privileged to collaborate with the National Museum of Singapore to use these historical artworks to design elegant lacquer accessories. This art collection comprises of nature’s creations as seen from the eyes of people 200 years ago, making it something truly valuable to Singapore. Thus, Qua aims to increase awareness of Singapore’s heritage through these designs.


It is of interest to note that, birds constitute the largest single group of animals in Farquhar's collection, with 44 different families represented. It is somewhat sobering to consider that no less than 16 of the bird species that inhabited Singapore at the time the drawings were completed have since become locally extinct. Hence the value of these drawings is no less than a national treasure. The Kingfisher and Magpies are also one of the more common and well-known birds around the world, while the Malayan Tapir and Lesser Mouse Deer are much less well known and quite unique, luckily causing William Farquhar to draw them.


Please click here to see this new collection.