- Museum number
Object: 養雀籠西面 (Yangquelong ximian)
Series: The Yuanming yuan European Palaces
Series: Twenty views of the European Palaces of the Yuanming yuan
West façade of Aviary; Plate 6 from a set of twenty engravings. View of the building in the centre foreground, a broad paved path leading up to it from the foreground, topiary set in a parterre on either side; to left of the building a panelled wall, to right a plain wall with tiled roof (possibly part of a low building); trees beyond. Engraving in an album; inscribed and numbered.
- Production date
- 1783-1786 (circa)
Height: 50.70 centimetres (trimmed)
Width: 87.70 centimetres (trimmed)
- Curator's comments
- The full set comprises twenty copper-plate engravings of the European Palaces (Xiyanglou 西洋樓) of the Garden of Perfect Brightness (Yuanmingyuan 圓明園), thirteen of which are included in this album.
The thirteen BM prints are mounted in moiré silk in a linked album with wooden covers, and are from two separate Registration series: 1916,0214,01 to 1916,0214,0.4 and 1924,0523,0.13 to 1924,0523,0.21. The individual titles used here were taken from Antoine Durand and Régine Thiriez, "Engraving the Emperor of China’s European Palaces.", 'Biblion: the Bulletin of the New York Public Library', 1, no. 2 (Spring 1993), pp. 81–107.
The Garden of Perfect Brightness was a vast imperial estate on the outskirts of Beijing. In 1747, the Qianlong Emperor ordered two missionaries at court, Giuseppe Castiglione and Michel Benoist, to draw up plans for a new palace complex to be built there, in the European style. According to Jesuit accounts, the Emperor had seen an image of a European fountain and Benoist was ordered to produce a model of it. The result greatly pleased the Emperor and prompted him to create his vision of a western palace and grounds. Referred to as the ‘European Palaces’, the architectural complex included buildings and gardens, and was planned as a series of enclosures forming separate views. Apart from some Chinese features, the overall style was clearly European, the sources being western books and prints in the imperial collections. An example is a set of engravings by Pérelle ‘Veues des plus beaux bâtimens de France’, which Louis XIV sent to the Kangxi Emperor in 1688.
The dating of these prints varies; some have suggested 1781-1786 (Evelyn Rawski and Jessica Rawson, China: Three Emperors 1662-1795, exh.cat., London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005, no.91 and Michael Snodin and Nigel Llewellyn (eds), Baroque 1620-1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence, exh.cat., London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2009, no. 26).
The date suggested here is based on information provided by Pirazzoli-T'Serstevens (1988): in a letter of 1786 to Louis-François Delatour, Father Bourgeois relates that in 1783 the Qianlong Emperor wanted to record his European Palaces as a series of copper-plate engravings which werre to be engraved by some Chinese students of [Giuseppe] Castiglione. Pirazzoli refers to Chinese archives stating that Yi Lantai made the sketches for the engravings which were printed in 1786.
For further reading see:
Michèle Pirazzoli T’Serstevens, Le Yuanmingyuan: Jeux d’Eau et Palais Européens du XVIIIe siècle à la cour de Chine, Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, A.D.P.F. 1987
Michèle Pirazzoli T’Serstevens, ‘The Emperor Qianlong’s European palaces’, Orientations, 1988, vol.19, no.11, pp. 61-71.
Michèle Pirazzoli T’Serstevens. ‘Europeomania at the Chinese Court: The Palace of the Delights of Harmony (1747-1751), architecture and interior decoration’. Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, vol. 65. 2000-2001, pp. 47-60.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Registration number