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Creator Name: Lang, Shining
Creator Nationality: Italian
Creator Role: Artist
Creator Dates/Places: 1688 - 1768
Creator Name-CRT: Shining Lang
Title: Inauguration Portraits of Emperor Qianlong, the Empress and Eleven Imperial Consorts
Title Type: Primary
Creation Start Date: 1736
Creation End Date: 1736
Creation Date: 1736
Object Type: Paintings
Materials and Techniques: handscroll, ink and color on silk
Dimensions: Image: 53cm x 688.3cm, Overall: 53.8cm x 1154.5cm
AMICA Contributor: The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 1969.31
Credit Line: John L. Severance Fund
Context: Almost from its inception in 1534, the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits, sent missionaries to the Far East. Unlike other European religious orders, the Jesuits sought to gain influence and, consequently, converts by introducing specialized Western knowledge to the elites in the regions they visited. By the late seventeenth century, Jesuits trained in technical fields as diverse as hydraulics, astronomy, and cartography were resident in Beijing and serving the emperor. At the same time, the society sent other members like Giuseppe Castiglione who affected the training and style of artists and artisans at court. Castiglione, a Jesuit born in Milan and trained in European painting techniques, proved influential and painted for three different Chinese emperors. Epitomizing Jesuit attitudes, Castiglione not only taught Western methods of perspective and chiaroscuro to his Chinese pupils but also studied his students' traditional watercolor techniques, eventually achieving his own synthetic stylecombining the two. This impressive scroll, depicting the Qianlong emperor (ruled 1736-96) as well as his empress and concubines, clearly illustrates Castiglione's favor at court. According to the inscription that accompanies the portraits, the painting was made on the day Qianlong ascended the throne. For this imperial project, the painter chose an extremely formal manner, presenting full frontal busts that are almost life size. Borrowed from the indigenous traditions of Chinese imperial and ancestor portraiture, the faces and richly embroidered robes are depicted rather flatly so that their features are unobscured by dramatic shadow. Castiglione logically concentrated on the emperor and empress and may only have sketched the remaining figures, leaving them for others to complete. The last three figures, added to the scroll after Qianlong's death and obviously different from the rest, must have been painted by a Chinese artist less experienced in the Western manner. This is not the only change introducedafter the scroll was created. Recent examination has illustrated that all the labels accompanying the portraits were at some point erased and rewritten. Perhaps done following Qianlong's death when the other figures were added, this discovery has prompted renewed study of the history of this important scroll, one of the most powerful imperial images in all of Chinese art. K.W.
AMICA ID: CMA_.1969.31
AMICA Library Year: 1998
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