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The painting has no signature, but the brush lines and style indicate a work by the Italian Jesuit and court painter Giuseppe Castiglione.
This portrait of the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795) in armor shows him as a brilliant young man of twenty-nine years. He was inspecting the Qing armies from horseback. Although the painting materials were traditional Chinese brush and pigments, his appearance, the horse, elements like the cumulous clouds and the plants in the foreground are all portrayed with shade and light that betray the painter's Italian training. Only the distant mountains conform to the stylistic tradition of Qing court landscape painting.
The Qing Banner troops practiced martial skills under the leadership of the emperor. Manchus were very proud of their talent for equestrienne shooting, since their empire was established by conquest on horseback. To keep the army vigilant and powerful, every three years, the Qianlong Emperor would carry out a grand military inspection of the Eight Banner troops. In 1739, the fourth year of his reign, the Emperor reviewed battle deployment and skills with military equipment at Nanyuan, the imperial hunting reserve south of Beijing.