PALAIS, PAVILLONS ET JARDINS CONSTRUITS PAR GIUSEPPE CASTIGLIONE DANS LE DOMAINE IMPERIAL DU YUAN MING YUAN AU PALAIS D'ETE DE PEKIN. Palaces, Pavilions and Gardens Created by Giuseppe Castiglione in the Imperial Grounds of Yuan Ming Yuan at the Summer Palace in Peking. Paris, 1977. 20 b/w engraved plates printed on vélin de Rives paper. 60x90 cm. Loose.
One of 250 copies of this outstanding facsimile edition of the celebrated (and extremely rare) suite of 20 large engravings produced between 1783-1786 and illustrating the now-destroyed European Palaces designed by Castiglione and other Jesuits for the Qianlong Emperor at the imperial summer palace, Yuanmingyuan, north-west of Peking. This extraordinary architectural project was recorded for the Emperor in these plates, originally engraved on copper by Chinese pupils of the Jesuits and collectively known under the Chinese name of 'Changchun Yuan Shuifa Tu'.
The Qianlong Emperor commanded Giuseppe Castiglione to build a complex of palaces 'in the manner of European barbarians', the designs of which he must have been familiar from the books of engravings brought to China by the missionaries. Castiglione was assisted in this architectural venture by a talented team of Jesuit colleagues - Ferdinand Bonaventure Moggi, Ignatius Sichelbart, Jean-Denis Attiret, Egide Thebaut, Charlier, Pierre Cheron d'Incarville, Martial Cibot, and Michel Benoist who was responsible for the fountains and waterworks which so delighted the Emperor.
The Jesuits sent to Europe for pattern-books, and are known to have worked from editions of Vitruvius, Androuet du Cerceau, Borromini and Bibiena, which resulted in a curious style of hybrid Baroque. The Palaces were encrusted with stone ornament, imitation shells and rock-work, with blind windows and doors, scrolls and foliage, pyramids and elaborate outside staircases.
The building project lasted almost thirty years, from 1747-1768. The European Palaces occupied a site in the north of the Garden of Everlasting Spring (Changchun Yuan), and are recorded in all their extravagance in these remarkable plates showing, for example, the maze with shoulder-high walls surmounted by miniature pines, the aviary housing the imperial peacocks, the Palace of the Calm of the Sea, which was the largest building and contained the elaborate hydraulics for working the fountains and Benoist's complex water-clock. The last plate is arguably the most extraordinary, depicting the view of the east bank of the artificial lake, where the Jesuits had painted a trompe-l'oeil to represent a European town. In the engraving, the Chinese artists have clearly struggled to master the alien principles of western perspective, so essential to the success of this particular conceit.
The original engravings were presented to the Qianlong Emperor in 1786 and remain the most important and detailed visual reference on the European Palaces at Yuanmingyuan, depicting the palaces and surrounding gardens in their prime, nearly 20 years after their completion. They were produced from detailed sketches apparently done by a Manchu court artist, Yi Lantai, who had been trained by Castiglione. The fact that the Emperor had commissioned the engravings would indicate that he was satisfied with the European Palaces and their environs.
When one examines a map of the layout of the European palaces and compares them to the set of twenty prints, it emerges that, as the prints are viewed in consecutive order, one is taken on a visual journey through the European palace complex.
This spectacular facsimile was produced to a very high quality by Jardin de Flore in Paris, to the exact size of the original engraved images, and on Velin de Rives paper which emulates the 'papier de Chine' of the originals. It is worth noting that the facsimile was produced from one of only three known sets of engravings which have not been folded and thus have no detracting central crease.
Translation of Chinese titles on plates as below.
List of plates: 1. South Facade of the Palace of the Delights of Harmony; 2. North Facade of the Palace of the Delights of Harmony; 3. East Facade of the Water Pavilion; 4. Gateway leading North to the Garden of the Water Pavilion; 5. View of the Maze; 6. Aviary, West Facade; 7. Aviary, East Facade; 8. Belvedere
9. Bamboo Pavilion; 10. Palace of the Calm Sea, West Facade with Water Clock (the Zodiac Fountain); 11. Palace of the Calm Sea, North Facade; 12. Palace of the Calm Sea, East Facade; 13. Palace of the Calm Sea, South Facade; 14. Palace of the Immense Ocean; 15. Waterworks; 16. Throne of Qianlong, opposite the Waterworks; 17. Gateway to the Terrace of the Artificial Hill; 18. Temple of the Artificial Hill; 19. Gateway to the Artificial Hill; 20. View of the East Bank of the Lake.
Lacking the title sheet and the sheet with bilingual introductory text.
Bibliography: Beurdeley: Guiseppe Castiglione pp. 65-75; Chiu: Yuanming Yuan; Pirazzoli-t'Serstevens: Le Yuanmingyuan; Siren: Gardens of China pp. 117-130; Wong: A Paradise Lost: The Imperial Garden Yuanming Yuan.
Subjects: Architecture Beijing
Item 538 in List 204.
Record produced by Hanshan Tang Books, www.hanshan.com.