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Formal Gathering

Location

CHINA, GUANGDONG PROVINCE, GUANGZHOU

Era

Qing dynasty (1644-1911)

Title

Formal Gathering

Date

Between 1750 and 1780

Materials

Oil on reverse of glass (mirror), wood

Dimensions

150 x 93 x 17 cm (approx.)

Credits

Gift in loving memory of Beverly M. Bronfman, inv. 2015.291

Collection

Decorative Arts and Design

Chinese reverse paintings on mirrored glass became popular fixtures in wealthy European homes of the eighteenth century. The medium first emerged in Europe in the fourteenth century, but in China production only began in 1696, when Emperor Kangxi established the first imperial glass workshop, in the Forbidden City. The scene illustrates a formal meeting between a seated high-ranking civil servant and two military officials in full ceremonial attire. The figures wear rich, colourful, extremely detailed costume, their faces treated in the Sino-European painting style initiated by the Jesuit painter Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766). These scenes were the fruit of the Chinese painter’s imagination, catering to the thirst for exoticism of the European clientele. Even the George III Chippendale-style frame was produced in China, in a soft balsa wood light enough to be transported long distances.

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