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15 Mar 2017 - 28 May 2017

The University Museum and Art Gallery (UMAG) of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) will present Imagining Qianlong: Louis XV’s Chinese Emperor Tapestries and Battle Scene Prints at the Imperial Court in Beijing from March 15 to May 28, 2017. This unprecedented exhibition highlights four of the magnificent chinoiserie tapestries of Chinese Emperor Qianlong, woven after designs by François Boucher at the famous Beauvais manufactory from 1758–1760. The large and well-preserved textiles form part of the royal French commission by King Louis XV, part of which was presented to Qianlong in 1766.

These celebrated tapestries are joined by another historic set of culturally related depictions in print. Conquests of the Qianlong Emperor were ordered by Qianlong and drawn by Jesuit painters at the Imperial Court in Beijing, and then printed in Paris 1769–1774. The ‘culture’ of these prints follows King Louis XIV’s influential images of the Histoire du Roi and presents Qianlong as both a war hero and the undisputed leader of China in the mid-eighteenth century.

These depictions date to the exact same time period, one that coincides with the high demand for chinoiserie in France—culminating in the world-famous designs by Boucher—and the Imperial Court of China’s interest in French design and culture. Despite their world-renowned fame, these groups of images previously have not been shown together.

Imagining Qianlong presents one of the rare topics to celebrate the court cultures in both France and China, at a time when the empires idolised each other and cultural influences and exchanges were highly significant and supported by well-established and prosperous monarchs during an increasingly enlightened eighteenth century.

In order to highlight the cross-cultural aspects of this project, Pascal Bertrand (Lille), Nicholas Pearce (Glasgow) and Kristel Smentek (MIT) have contributed essays to an exhibition publication detailing the sociocultural history of the tapestries and prints. Each scholar is an expert in their fields and well-versed lecturers on Chinese art in France and on French and European Jesuit culture in China.

Click here for more images (Video produced by Learning Environment Services, ITS.)


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