Artist: Giuseppe Castiglione (Italian, Milan 1688–1766 Beijing)
Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Date: datable to 1723–25
Medium: Handscroll; ink on paper
Dimensions: Image: 37 in. x 25 ft. 10 3/4 in. (94 x 789.3 cm)
Overall with mounting: H. 38 1/2 in. (97.8 cm)
Credit Line: Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1991
Accession Number: 1991.134
During the eighteenth century, the Manchu Qing dynasty sponsored a major revival of courtly arts, which attained a new monumental scale, technical finish, and descriptive intricacy. A key figure in establishing this new court aesthetic was the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione. A master of vividly naturalistic draftsmanship and large-scale compositions, in Europe he worked as a muralist. Castiglione helped to create a new, hybrid style that combined Western realism with traditional Chinese conventions of composition and brushwork.
This monumental scroll, a unique example of a Castiglione preparatory drawing, is the model for one of Castiglione's most famous paintings, the One Hundred Horses scroll preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. The drawing, although done with a brush rather than a pen, is executed almost exclusively in the European manner. Landscape is represented using Western-style perspective, figures are often shown in dramatically foreshortened views, and vegetation is depicted with spontaneous arabesques and cross-hatching. The large scale of the painting also suggests a European influence, as if Castiglione had taken a typical Western canvas and extended its length to make an architectural frieze.