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Portrait of Yunli, The Prince of Guo

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Medium: Color on silk
Artist(s): Giuseppe Castiglione (1688–1766, Chinese name Lang Shining)

Dimensions: 31.5 × 36.7 cm

Giuseppe Castiglione (1688–1766, Chinese name Lang Shining) was born in Milan, Italy. At age twenty, he joined the Society of Jesus and studied painting systematically. In 1714, the fifty-third year of the Kangxi Emperor’s reign (1662–1722), he was sent from Portugal by the Jesuit order to serve as a missionary to China’s imperial court, where he painted exclusively for the emperors. He served the Kangxi, Yongzheng (r. 1723–1735), and Qianlong (r. 1736–1795) emperors and was buried at the cemetery for European missionaries outside the Fucheng Gate after he passed away at the age of seventy-nine.

During his fifty-one years in China, Castiglione painted a considerable number of portraits of the emperors and their consorts, creating works in a uniquely realistic and three-dimensional style. Castiglione’s work in China over half a century opened a window onto Western art for the Qing court, changing the history of Qing court paintings and writing an important chapter in the history of Sino-European cultural and artistic exchanges.

The figure here is Yunli, the Prince of Guo, who was the twenty-seventh son of the Kangxi Emperor. Yunli was appointed as a commandery-prince (junwang) in 1723 and promoted to the status of prince (qinwang) in 1728. This painting, done in 1735, combines the tangible feel of Western oil painting with the techniques used in traditional Chinese portraits to realistically depict the face. It epitomizes Castiglione’s fusion of Chinese and Western painting styles.

Website version edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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