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The Printed Image in China, 8th–21st Century

May 5–July 29, 2012

Printing at the Qing Court

During the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), exquisitely crafted prints and printed books were distributed by the ruling Manchus to members of the imperial clan, state guests, and envoys from tributary countries as part of an endeavor to legitimatize their reign and to propagate dynastic glory.

Most impressive is the series of historical battle scenes commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736–96) to commemorate his victorious campaign in East Turkestan between 1755 and 1759. These prints, based on pictorial designs by Jesuit missionaries, were produced with Western engraving and etching techniques introduced by the Italian priest Matteo Ripa (1682–1746). The emperor also commissioned engravings of his Western baroque-style palaces in the Garden of Perfect Brightness, a project that reveals his taste for the exotic and his desire to be a universal ruler.

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