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Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧)
A Jesuit missionary paints the emperor of China

Giuseppe Castiglione was 26 when he stepped off a trading ship from Lisbon into the docks of the Chinese port city of Guangzhou. It was 1714, and trade with China was just beginning. The young man was a Jesuit missionary and a painter, sent from his home in Italy to bring Jesus to the people of China. News of his arrival was sent to the Emperor Kangxi, in Beijing, who summoned Castiglione to the royal palace. We don’t know what the emperor thought of Jesus, but he sure liked Castiglione’s painting.

Giuseppe Castiglione spent the rest of his life in the courts of the Qing Dynasty, growing close with three different emperors, Kangxi, Yongzheng, and finally Qianlong, documenting their military successes, their favorite horses, and their families. Castiglione also took on a new name, Lang Shi’ning, and fused eastern and western painting styles. His paintings were prized by the emperors, who often added poems in their own calligraphy to the work. Late in his life, emperor Qianlong inscribed a hanging scroll titled Spring’s Peaceful Message with this note: “In portraiture Shi’ning is masterful. He painted me during my younger days; the white-headed one who enters the room today does not recognize who this is.”

Reed Enger, "Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧), A Jesuit missionary paints the emperor of China," in Obelisk Art History, Published May 14, 2016; last modified October 31, 2022, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/giuseppe-castiglione/.

Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧) was a Chinese artist born on July 19, 1688. Castiglione (郎世寧) contributed to the Qing Dynasty movement and died on July 17, 1766.

One Hundred Horses, Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧)

One Hundred Horses 1728

One Hundred Horses — Detail 1, Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧)

One Hundred Horses — Detail 1 1728

One Hundred Horses — Detail 2, Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧)

One Hundred Horses — Detail 2 1728

One Hundred Horses — Detail 3, Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧)

One Hundred Horses — Detail 3 1728

One Hundred Horses — Detail 4, Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧)

One Hundred Horses — Detail 4 1728

One Hundred Horses — Detail 5, Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧)

One Hundred Horses — Detail 5 1728

Peacock Spreading Its Tail Feathers, Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧)

Peacock Spreading Its Tail Feathers 1758

The Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial Armour, Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧)

The Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial Armour 1758

Portrait of Consort Chunhui, Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧)

Portrait of Consort Chunhui 1760

Portrait of Lady Hoja, Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧)

Portrait of Lady Hoja 1760

Portraits of Emperor Qianlong, the Empress, and Eleven Imperial Consorts, Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧)

Portraits of Emperor Qianlong, the Empress, and Eleven Imperial Consorts 1736 – 1770

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