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Pozzo’s Legacy: Giuseppe Castiglione and His Contributions to Sacred Spaces in Beijing

Tue, June 23, 11:05am to 1:00pm, North Building, Floor: 9th Floor, N904


Giuseppe Castiglione was a key figure among those who passionately engaged themselves in the transfer of European techniques and sciences to the Qing court. As witnessed by a number of Korean and Chinese visitors to Beijing, his major contributions include three life-size illusionistic paintings (one depicts a dog in a crouched position; the other two show European cityscapes), church interior decorations such as altars, false domes, frescoes, sacred images as well as two battle scenes representing Constantine the Great. As a matter of fact, these works that occurred in a religious context to a certain extent stimulated a radical aesthetic change that instantly distinguished the eighteenth century works of Qianlong’s court from all previous works. Based on newly discovered materials, this paper aims to conceptualize the processual aspect of integrating Western perspective and the genre of quadratura that emerged in a Baroque religious context into broader practices of Qing (secular) court painters and discusses Castiglione’s role as an intermediary. To achieve this conceptualization, I will first use Korean travel notes to reconstruct Castiglione’s early career and activities before his service at the court; second, I will pay attention to the interactive process between the Chinese version of Pozzo’s treatise and the illusionistic paintings flourishing at the court workshops in which Castiglione and his Chinese pupils (among them the brothers of the Wang family) were involved; in conclusion, I will argue that the Jesuit sacred spaces of Beijing were among the most significant places for Sino-European visual experimentation outside Qianlong’s court.