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Giuseppe Castiglione (1688–1766, Chinese name Lang Shining) was a Jesuit missionary in China and a court painter for the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662–1722), known for his high esteem for Western art. Castiglione blended Chinese and Western techniques to create a refined and vivid style, and, consequently, won the favor of the Kangxi, Yongzheng (r. 1723–1735), and Qianlong (r. 1736–1795) emperors. He was especially proficient at painting horses, as seen in his renowned work One Hundred Horses (Baijun tu).
The piece shown here depicts eight horses in various poses. Their forms and proportions are accurately portrayed while their manes and tails are especially vivid. The background is replete with traditional Chinese elements in the rendering of the trees, mountains, and rocks. The artist’s European realism is blended with the traditional Chinese aesthetic of brushwork and ink.
“Eight Horses” (Bajun tu) is a subject frequently seen in Chinese painting. Traditional accounts tell of how King Mu of Zhou (act. 10th c. BCE) had eight fine steeds named after the colors of their coats. Painted during the flourishing period of the Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong reigns of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), Eight Horses reflects the military might and prosperity of the nation.
Website version edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying