Influences of Emperor Qianlong’s Italian Painter – Giuseppe Castiglione

What impact on Eastern art did an Italian missionary bring to the Qing Dynasty? How do modern coutures reflect the Giuseppe Castiglione’s 18th century classic painting? A special presentation by 2019 LunarFest, the National Palace Museum and Oakridge Centre will display a unique fashion exhibition with classic National Palace Museum collection-inspired coutures styled by Canadian and Taiwanese designers. This Lunar New Year, take a visit to Oakridge Centre and see how the modern fashion designers use popular elements to re-interpret classic National Palace Museum collections; experience Giuseppe Castiglione’s fusion style between Eastern and Western culture, and see how it all connects to multiculturalism in Canada!  

Commemoration and Ceremony in Qing Court Painting

01 Imperial Rites of Sericulture

Imperial Rites of Sericulture (Scroll 3: “Picking Mulberry Leaves”)

Court artists, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

Silk farming or sericulture is the practice of using silkworms to produce and farm silk.  In the spring, the Empress would lead the princesses and their consorts in collecting mulberry leaves to feed the worms, and to pray for a bountiful harvest.

Emperor Qianlong commissioned ten painters to produce in this series of four handscrolls dedicated to Empress Xiaoxian.  Castiglione only painted the faces of the Empress and four other princesses and their consorts. Despite nine other artists working on the rest of the handscrolls, Castiglione’s name is the only name listed on this collaboration showing how much the Emperor adored him.

02 Imperial Rites of Sericulture

Imperial Rites of Sericulture (Scroll 4: “Offering Cocoons”)

Court artists, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

Western perspective is used to depict the vast structure of the palace and courtyard and depicts the Rites of Sericulture. Sitting in the Hall of Cocoons, the Empress waits for the ritualistic unrolling of the cocoons, with their consorts kneeling and presenting them to the Empress.

Paintings of Ladies Doing Embroidering

This series of paintings depicts the everyday life of women in the Royal Palace, offering a rare glimpse into a hidden lifestyle. Women can be seen embroidering or admiring plum trees.

04 Paintings of Ladies Swing Under a Willow Tree

Paintings of Ladies Swing Under a Willow Tree

In spring, women can be seen relaxing around a swing under the shade of a willow tree.

Paintings of Ladies Playing Chess

Candles illuminate the board as ladies enjoy a game of chess.

Activities of the Twelve Months – December

Court artists, Qing Dynasty (1737)

All paintings in the series of “Activities of the Twelve Months” record the daily life activities of the nobility, one painting for each month of the year. Western perspective is used to show the architecture of the palace and to create a three-dimensional sense of space.

This painting depicts the Old Summer Palace in December, and shows people enjoying winter festivities, such as ice skating.

Tributes to Realism for Imperial Reviews

01 One Hundred Horses

One Hundred Horses

Lang Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione, 1688 -1766 ), Qing Dynasty

One Hundred Horses is Castiglione’s most well known work and exemplifies his skill in combining  Western drawing and Chinese brushwork. It is the most representative piece of these techniques.

Instead of using an aerial perspective typical of Chinese paintings, it uses a Western single perspective to depict the mountains and trees in the background. The inkwork is delicate using many lighting techniques to show the texture of the trees and mountains. Another example of this Western lighting technique is in the reflection of the horse in the river – a stark contrast to the shadows of the horses peering out from underneath their horseshoes, invoking a very Eastern aesthetic.

Peacock Spreading Its Tail Feathers

The peacock in the painting was a tribute from the Western Regions.  Emperor Qianlong was pleased because a second generation of peacocks had been raised in the Imperial Court.  Therefore, he ordered Castiglione and two other painters to paint the peacocks. Castiglione painted the peacocks, flowers and trees and other painters painted the lake stones.  This combination of skills is a masterpiece of collaborative work.

Eight Horses

Lang Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione, 1688 -1766 ), Qing Dynasty

This painting depicts eight horses in multiple positions and postures while using Western techniques to create a three-dimensional effect of the horses.

Castiglione combines these Chinese and Western techniques to create the texture of the tree trunk that the horses rest underneath and the shifting perspective of the misty background.

Combining Eastern and Western Techniques

01 Immortal Blossoms In An Everlasting Spring

Immortal Blossoms In An Everlasting Spring – Cockscomb

Lang Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione, 1688 -1766 ), Qing Dynasty

Castiglione’s usage of dark and light shades bring out the textures of the cockscomb, expressing each wrinkle and fold in the petals.

02 Gathering of Auspicious Signs

Gathering of Auspicious Signs

Both the twin lotus and double rice spikes on a single stalk celebrate the meaning of saints in governing the world — Gathering of Auspicious Signs.  Castiglione used white colour as the intermediary colour to express the smooth texture of the porcelain vase; he also used the Western concepts of colour block and light shadows to present a three-dimensional feel of vivid plants.

03 Vase of Flowers

Vase of Flowers

Lang Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione, 1688 -1766 ), Qing Dynasty

The smooth texture of the porcelain vase contrasts against the multiple coloured layers of the peonies and leaves while using white as an intermediary colour to bridge the piece together.

04 Landscape


Lang Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione, 1688 -1766 ), Qing Dynasty

Landscape paintings are a traditional theme of Chinese paintings.  This painting depicts scholars in the mountains enjoying the natural beauty of the landscape while reading.  Traditional Chinese techniques were used to paint the mountains and waterfalls, while also using the techniques of Western oil painting to shadow and create a sense of distance in the landscape.

Stay up to date to receive our new CULTURAL PROGRAMS

Stay up to date to receive our new CULTURAL PROGRAMS