- Museum number
The reception of Lord Macartney by the Qianlong emperor at Jehol (Chengde) in 1793; in the foreground, the emperor carried in his chair with an entourage of court officials; to right, Lord Macartney with his entourage; beyond, a richly ornamented yurt . 1796
Watercolour, over graphite
- Production date
Height: 404 millimetres
Width: 607 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Engraved, with variations, by J. Fittler in G. Staunton, "Authentic Account of Lord Macartney's Embassy", London 1797. Alexander is known to have made at least six watercolour versions (see S. Legioux, "Image of China: William Alexander", 1980)
Alexander did not himself witness Macartney's audience with the emperor on 14 September 1793 as he was one of those left to take care of matters in Beijing. His view of the audience was based on the descriptions of those who were there, and on two visual sources: a sketch from memory made by Lieutenant Henry William Parish, and a print showing the arrival of the Qianlong emperor at a victory banquet in 1760 which was engraved as Plate 16 in the series "Victoires et Conquêtes de l'Empereur de la Chine" by Jacques-Philippe Le Bas after Giuseppe Castiglione, see 1928,08184.108.40.206. Furthermore Alexander was able to catch a glimpse of the emperor himself from the roadside on 30 September as the imperial procession returned to Beijing.
The representation of Lord Macartney corresponds with the description of his valet: "His Excellency was dressed in a suit of spotted mulberry velvet, with a diamond star, and his ribbon; over which he wore the full habit of the order of the Bath with the hat, and plume of feathers which form a part of it" (Aeneas Anderson, "A Narrative of a Voyage to China", 1795). Beside Macartney stand Sir George Staunton and his son, also George, holding his cloak.
In his diary, Alexander recorded his huge disappointment that he was not able to accompany the ambassador on the final part of the journey and, in particular, that, although so near, he could not visit the Great Wall of China: "that stupendous monument of human labour, the famous Great Wall, … not to have seen that which might have been the boast of a man's grandson".
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1980 Aug-Oct, Brighton AG, 'Chinese Views of W. Alexander'
1980 Nov-Dec, Nottingham Uni, 'Chinese Views of W. Alexander'
2007 Mar-Jun, Beijing, Palace Museum, Britain Meets the World
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Staunton's Account
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number