Laura J. Newby – The Chinese Emperor’s New Copper Plates: Art and Politics in the Late 18th Century

Event Date: 15 April 2010

Dr Laura J. Newby (University of Oxford) – The Chinese Emperor’s New Copper Plates: Art and Politics in the Late 18th Century

In the early 1760s, Jesuit missionaries serving as court artists in Peking were instructed by the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736 – 96) to produce a set of sixteen sketches in celebration of his recent victories over the Mongols and the Turkic Muslims in the region of Xinjiang. The designs which were to be engraved on copper plates and printed in Europe were dispatched from Canton to Paris where the work was executed. Yet it was not until 1777, over a decade after the Qianlong emperor had initiated the project, that his order was fully realised and the sixteen original designs, the sixteen copper plates and 200 prints drawn from each plate had all arrived in Peking. This paper explores the politics behind the execution of this unique set of prints.

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