Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世宁, Lan Shining). An italian painter in China

There is a special relationship between China, Italy and the entire West through an artist who lived for 51 years in the imperial palace. He was a specialist,  painting as well as portraits of the emperor and his concubines, but especially the beautiful horses of the imperial estates. The artist in question was Giuseppe Castiglione or in chinese Lan Shining, a Jesuit who lived between 1688 and 1766. He was born in Milan  (San Marcellino) and died in Beijing, honored by the great Emperor Qianlong  with imperial funerals. Not surprisingly, Qianlong was a great and open-minded man, passionate about art and culture. 

 In 1714, Castiglione was sent to China for missionary work and by 1715 had arrived at Peking. He came to the attention of the court for his skill in painting, serving the K’ang-hsi, Yung-cheng, and  Qianlong Emperors as an artist for up to fifty-one years. At the Qing court, Castiglione devoted himself to harmonizing Western painting techniques with Chinese styles, subjects, and materials. In addition to providing instruction in oil painting, he also took part in the architectural design of the European-style buildings at the imperial Yüan-ming Garden.

Castiglione, as a pictorial narrator chose to show a sort of continuity of style from his Italian education to the adopted taste and tradition of painting in China creating a new style that combined the new elements with his Western training in art. His paintings were done with Chinese materials but often incorporate Western techniques of shading and atmospheric perspective, imparting a sense of realism to the native themes. He showed  great ability to syncretism and intercultural mediation appearing to us as a  very modern artist able to be influenced also by the cultures more distant from his original one.

The masterpieces of Castiglione are jealously guarded in the museums of the imperial palace in Taipei and Beijing.


Published by historiolaeartis


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