Giuseppe Castiglione’s Chinese Paintings

Giuseppe castiglione's painting of peonies.

Giuseppe Castiglione's painting of peonies. (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

Giuseppe Castiglione (July 19, 1688-July 17, 1766) was an Italian Jesuit Brother, a missionary in China, and a painter at the Royal Court of the emperor, who had a marked influence on Chinese painting.

Giuseppe Castiglione was a missionary

In 1715, Giuseppe Castiglione went to China as a missionary. While in China, Castiglione took the name Lang Shining (郎世寧). His skill as an artist was appreciated by Emperor Qianlong, and Giuseppe Castiglione spent many years in the court painting various subjects, including portraits of the emperor, empress, and imperial concubines.

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Giuseppe Castiglione's 'Eight Steeds.'
‘Eight Steeds.’ (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)
Chinese-style painting of Emperor Qianlong.
‘Emperor Qianlong.’ (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)
Chinese-style portrait of father and son, the emperors Qianlong and Yongzhen.
Spring’s Peaceful Message (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

He was also involved in designing a Western-style imperial garden for the Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan), which served several Chinese emperors. It was later destroyed in a fire in 1860 during the Second Opium War.

Depiction of one of the Emperor's mansions at the Old Summer Palace, copper engraving based on drawing by Giuseppe Castiglione.
Xiyanglou (Western Mansions) in the Old Summer Palace (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

There are 12 panels that describe how Emperor Yongzheng and his children enjoyed their happy times at Yuanmingyuan. The ginger-yellow frames were a way to manifest and express the concept of “Everywhere is the emperor’s territory.”

Giuseppe Castiglione’s paintings influenced Qing court painters and a new style of painting evolved that combined both Chinese painting and Western painting methods.

Giuseppe Castiglione spent over 50 years painting life in China under three Qing Dynasty emperors: Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong. This prominent Jesuit artist, architect, and missionary died in Beijing.

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