- Museum number
Chinese standard bearer; standing on a mound, with distant view of house and bridge at left
Watercolour over graphite
- Production date
Height: 309 millimetres
Width: 203 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Aquatinted with modifications in the landscape background in 'Costume of China'.
William Alexander was appointed as draughtsman in Lord Macartney's embassy to China in 1792-4. During this time, Alexander produced a large number of works and developed a detailed record of his travels. Many of these works were engraved and published as an 'Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China' (1797). William Alexander repeatedly reproduced his original sketches made in China into watercolours years after his return from China in 1795 and produced a number of publications of these works including 'Costumes of China', published in 1805, which features a reproduction of this watercolour.
The following text is taken from 'Costumes of China' and is descriptive of the military uniform worn in this watercolour:
'Early in the morning of the 30th September, 1793, the Embassador and suite proceeded on the journey northward, to pay the customary compliment of meeting the Emperor, who was then returning from his summer residence in Tartary, to his palace at Pekin; on this occasion, each side of the road was lined, as far as the eye could reach, with mandarines, soldiers, &c. bearing banners, large silk triple umbrellas and other insignia of Chinese royalty. The present represents a soldier employed in bearing a standard, or gilt board, on which are depicted characters, which probably display some title of the Emperor. His dress is nankeen cotton, which is tied round the waist, with the imperial or yellow girdle, and his legs are cross-gartered: his hat is straw, neatly woven and fastened under the chin; the crown is covered with a fringe of red silk, converging from the centre, where a feather is placed. His sword, as is customary with the Chinese, is worn with the hilt behind.'
Angus Lockyer's essay in the exhibition catalogue for 'Self and other: portraits from Asia and Europe', discusses European images of Asia from the 15th to the 19th centuries and comments that there was a shift in how Asia was understood following Napolean's invasion of Europe. 'If, before, the Orient had been appreciated, now it would be defined. Where there had once been a possibility of sympathetic identification, however charged with exoticism, now there was an obligation to catalogue and classify.'(p.284) Unlike previous attempts of representing Asia by simply draping a European figure in Asian costume, William Alexander aimed to demonstrate distinctions between Chinese military dress. Utterson also attempted to demonstrate the differences between Java and the rest of Asia. In doing so, artists were presenting a type, rather than an individual. (p.284) These works are also in the British Museum collection, see reg no. 1941,0405.4-7.
See 1865.0520.1238 and 1865,0520.1237 for other drawings by William Alexander of Chinese military uniform.
See 'Self and other: portraits from Asian and Europe', (Osaka:2008),pp.282-284 for further information and mention of this drawing. See also exhibition catalogue for 'William Alexander: An English Artist in Imperial China' Royal Brighton Pavilion (1981), for which this watercolour was also exhibited.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1980 Aug-Oct, Brighton AG & Mus, 'Chinese Views of W. Alexander'
1980 Nov-Dec, Nottingham Univ Art Mus, 'Chinese Views of W. Alexander'
1985 May-Jul, Berlin, Festspiele, Europe and Emperor of China
2008 Sep-Nov, Osaka, Nat Mus of Ethnology, Self and Other...
2008/9 Dec-Jan, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Self and Other...
2009 Feb-Mar, Hayama, Mus of Modern Art, Self and Other...
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Costume of China
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number