The Twenty Views of the European Palaces of the Yuanmingyuan

£3,800

A Complete set of the prints of Yuanmingyuan, etching on wove paper, deckle edges, image 510 x 880mm, later issue after the originals published in 1763-1766.

A Complete set of the prints of Yuanmingyuan, etching on wove paper, deckle edges, image 510 x 880mm, later issue after the originals published in 1763-1766.

The original etchings were created for the Qianlong Emperor by Jesuits Giuseppe Castiglione and Michel Benoist. They depict the European Palaces (Xiyanglou 西洋樓) of the Garden of Perfect Brightness (Yuanmingyuan 圓明園), constructed from 1737-1766. The European Pavilions (Xiyanglou) located in the Yuanmingyuan or Old Summer Palace in Beijing were the greatest expressions of Quin rulers’ interest in the arts of Europe. Boasting sheer grandeur of over 320 hectares of land, the architectural complex was more than ten times larger than the entire precinct of the Forbidden City. The Qianlong Emperor so adored the Yuanmingyuan that from his reign onwards, the Imperial Court moved to the Yuanmingyuan every year after the Spring Festival (Lunar New Year) and resided there until the sixth month when the heat set in.

In 1783, the Qianlong emperor commissioned a set of copperplate engravings depicting twenty views of the European Pavilions, printed in 786. Copies were kept in the palace and an additional 200 sets were given to imperial relatives, high officials, and other guests.

These engravings provide an important visual record of these key locations and architectural marvels that make up the European Pavilions of the Yuanmingyuan. The original sets are very scarce since most were destroyed by English and French troops in 1860 during the Second Opium War.

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