Four Hand-Coloured Copper-plate Etchings from the Conquest of China. QIANLONG.
Four Hand-Coloured Copper-plate Etchings from the Conquest of China.
Four Hand-Coloured Copper-plate Etchings from the Conquest of China.
Four Hand-Coloured Copper-plate Etchings from the Conquest of China.

Four Hand-Coloured Copper-plate Etchings from the Conquest of China.



QIANLONG
, EMPEROR OF CHINA (1736-1796). Suite of four engravings depicting the conquests of the Qianlong Emperor. From the suite of sixteen engraved plates. Printed in Paris under the direction of Charles-Nicholas Cochin. Broadsheets, image size: 515 x 890 mm. Preserved in the contemporary French green paper mounts with black ink outline borders. Professionally framed. With the original French printed labels describing the individual engravings affixed to back of frames. [Paris, 1769-1774].

These four contemporary hand-coloured engravings represent individual scenes from the exceedingly rare series of sixteen engravings commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor to commemorate the victory of his 1755-1760 military campaigns against the Western Mongols.

The four plates are:

I. "General Fou Te Accepts the Surrender of the Ili," showing the triumphal march of the Emperor and his general to Beijing. Drawn by Sichelbart and engraved by B.L. Prévost in 1769 (Pirazzoli-t'Serstevens 1);

II. "The victory of Khorgos." in the Spring of 1758 against the forces of Amoursana. Drawn by J. D Attiret, cut by C. N. Cochin and engraved by J. Ph. Le Bas in 1774. (Pirazzoli-t'Serstevens 4);

III. "The great victory of the Qurman." on February 3, 1759 when the Chinese general Fou-te with only 600 soldiers defeated an army of 5000 Muslims. Drawn by Damasceno and engraved by A. de St. Aubin in 1770. (Pirazzoli-t'Serstevens 8).

IV. "The Emperor Gives a Victory Banquet to the Officers and Soldiers who have distinguished themselves in battle," at Tseu-kuang-ko, the Imperial Palace Gardens, Beijing on July 5, 1754. Drawn by Castiglione and engraved by J. Ph. le Bas, 1770 (Pirazzoli-t'Serstevens 16).

These large Chinese-French prints are among the most impressive works ever produced by the method of copper engraving. This is the first series of engraved plates to document the conquests of the Qianlong Emperor. They represented an amalgam of Chinese imagery, Italian interpretation, and Parisian copperplate engraving at its apogee. The drawings were supplied by Jesuit artists attached to the Emperor's court in Beijing. Upon completion they were shipped to France for engraving, as the craft was unknown in China.

After the Emperor was shown battle prints by the Augsburg artist Georg Philipp Rugendas (1666-1743) he wished to see his military conquests recorded in intaglio prints as well. He therefore ordered his Jesuit court painters Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766, called "Lang Shining"), Jean Denis Attiret (1702-1768, "Wang Zhicheng"), Ignaz Sichelbart (1708-1780, "Ai Qimeng") and Giovanni Damasceno Sallusti (i.e. Joannes Damascenus a SS. Concepcione, d. 1781, later bishop of Beijing, called "An Deyi") to prepare sketches for the prints, which they did in 1764 and 1765. Four of the drawings had been completed by the time of Castiglione's death, when the decision was made to send the work to France via the ships of the Compagnie des Indes. According to the Emperor's decree, no expense was to be spared.

The first four drawings reached Paris in the autumn of 1766, and the remaining twelve in July 1767. The Marquis de Marigny, director of the Academie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture decreed that the work should be carried out under the supervision of Charles-Nicholas Cochin 'fils' (1715-1790). As the French paper manufacturers did not have paper of the desired proportions, the paper-merchant Prudhomme was ordered to make it to custom; the new size was called Grand Louvois. The copperplates were imported from England. Cochin chose Beauvais for the actual printing of the sheets, on the grounds that he was "the only one who can be completely trusted, both regarding his talents as well as his honesty which is well-known." The work proceeded slowly; standards of the highest quality were called for, and some of the pictures, especially the one by Sallusti, needed careful editing.

The original order was for 100 copies of each print, but by 1768 this figure was increased to 200 copies so that at least 100 would survive the journey back to China (!) -- however, several authorities claim that many copies were lost at sea. In any event, the final delivery was not shipped until 1775, occasioned in part by the difficulty the printers had producing a uniform series of prints from drawings by different artists. Three of the initial drawings were made by Attiret, six by Damasceno, one by Sichelbart, and at least two by Castiglione; the remaining are unsigned but have been attributed to Castiglione by C. & M. Beurdeley and others. The engravers were L.J. Masquelier (1), J. Aliamet (2), J. Ph. Le Bas (5), A. St.-Aubin (2), F.D. Née (1), B.L. Prevost (2), P.P. Choffard (2), and N. de Launay (1).

The Emperor's instructions stated that all the impressions were to be sent to him, along with the original copper plates. However, there is plentiful evidence that prints were pulled for the King of France and influential persons in Paris as well. Most of the surviving sets and individual prints appear to belong to this surreptitious group.

The above series is not only a landmark in the history of Chinese and European art, but also testifies to the direct artistic cooperation between China and Europe in the eighteenth century. It has been a common misconception that China was only interested in itself and detested the foreigners -- here the Emperor himself proved the contrary.

VERY RARE IMPRESSIONS WITH CONTEMPORARY FRENCH HAND-COLOURING. The complete set of sixteen black and white engravings (or a few individual prints from this set) have come onto the market for sale only rarely. We can locate no other examples of any of the prints with contemporary colouring having been for sale or in public or private collections.

PROVENANCE: Robert Barnwell Roosevelt (1829-1906) the uncle of Theodore Roosevelt and great-uncle of Eleanor Roosevelt. He was an early conservationist and worked for the protection of waterways. Roosevelt served in Congress and was later appointed to a diplomatic post in the Netherlands. He is credited with influencing his nephew, Theodore Roosevelt, to become a conservationist. With the ownership label "R.B. Roosevelt/ 26 East 20th Street/ New York" attached to the verso on one print.

Cohen-De Ricci 1012-1013. Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica 641-642. Fünf Jahrhunderte Buchillustration 141. Brunet V, 1178. P. Pelliot, "Les conquêtes de l'empereur de la Chine," T'oung Pao (ed. H. Cordier & P. Pelliot) vol 20 (1921), pp. 183-274. Michèle Pirazzoli t'Serstevens, Gravures de conquêtes de l'Empereur de la Chine Kien-Long au Musée Guimet 1969. Hartmut Walravens, "The Introduction of Copper-Engraving into China," 62nd IFLA General Conference, August 25-31, 1996.

Item nr. 169181
Price: $100,000.00

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