Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shining) (Italian, 1688–1766)
Handscroll; ink on paper
37 x 310 3/4 in. (94 x 789.3 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, in honor of Douglas Dillon, 1991 (1991.134)
During the eighteenth century, the Manchu Qing dynasty sponsored a major revival of courtly arts, which attained a new monumental scale, technical finish, and descriptive intricacy. A key figure in establishing this new court aesthetic was the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione. A master of vividly naturalistic draftsmanship and large-scale compositions, in Europe he worked as a muralist. Castiglione helped to create a new, hybrid style that combined Western realism with traditional Chinese conventions of composition and brushwork.
This monumental scroll, a unique example of a Castiglione preparatory drawing, is the model for one of his most famous paintings, the One Hundred Horses scroll preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. The drawing, although done with a brush rather than a pen, is executed almost exclusively in the European manner. Landscape is represented using Western-style perspective, figures are often shown in dramatically foreshortened views, and vegetation is depicted with spontaneous arabesques and cross-hatching. The large scale of the painting also suggests a European influence, as if Castiglione had taken a typical Western canvas and extended its length to make an architectural frieze.
[Horses with heavy outlines:]
Some of the horses have reinforced outlines to enable the artist and his assistants to trace them accurately onto the silk of the finished version.
[Man in water:]
In the finished version of this painting, Castiglione gave the water a bluish tint and depicted reflections on its surfaceattributes that almost never appear in traditional Chinese landscape painting.
In the finished version of this painting, this figure appears entirely clothed. Whereas European artists have a long tradition of painting and sculpting nudes, naked figures rarely appear in Chinese art.