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Commemorating His Majesty

Commemorating His Majesty

February 1–May 1, 2011

Complementing the exhibition The Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City, this installation features imperially commissioned paintings and calligraphies from the Qianlong era.

Self-conscious of his place in Chinese history, the Qianlong Emperor made extraordinary efforts to perpetuate his legacy by commissioning works of art that commemorated his achievements and enhanced his image as an ideal "sage-king." To demonstrate his command of China's elite cultural heritage, the emperor had select calligraphic masterpieces from the imperial collection copied and carved into stone tablets, from which sets of rubbings were produced and compiled into a thirty-two volume compendium of canonical models.

Enamored of Western-style pictorial realism as a documentary medium, the emperor engaged Jesuit missionary artists in the creation of two mammoth records of his successful military campaigns: a set of one hundred full-length portraits of exemplary military and civil officials and a group of sixteen copperplate etchings, printed in Paris, that illustrate key victories in the Qing empire's westward territorial expansion. Another of the emperor's grand self-celebratory projects was the pictorial documentation of his first tour of southeastern China, which was completed in 1770, in time for his sixtieth birthday.

Finally, the emperor not only created his own calligraphies and paintings but also added countless inscriptions to existing works of art, thereby asserting both his appreciation for and "ownership" of the entire sweep of Chinese history and traditions.

Related Exhibitions

The exhibition The Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City presents some ninety paintings, decorative works, architectural elements, and religious works created for an elaborate two-acre private retreat built deep within the Forbidden City in 1771 as the retirement residence of the Qianlong Emperor, who presided over the Qing dynasty at the zenith of its power and wealth.

Extravagant Display: Chinese Art in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries presents Qing-dynasty works from the Museum's permanent collection, including textiles, lacquers, ivories, jades, porcelains, and other objects.