Possibly the Work of Spoilum (Chinese, act. 1785-1810)
An Imperial Review at a Military Encampment
Oil on canvas, 32 1/2 x 51 3/4 in., in a giltwood frame.
Condition: Relined, retouch.
Literature: Carl Crossman, The Decorative Arts of the China Trade, 1991, p. 165.
Exhibitions: The Royal Pavilion, Art Gallery and Museums, Brighton, The China Trade 1600-1860, 1986, no. 78.
Note: Described by Crossman as "one of the most ambitious of all genre paintings depicting Chinese life painted for the western market," the scene presents an imperial military review with detail and grace uncommon for export paintings of this period. The Qianlong Emperor sits in customary fashion outside his tent while a senior mandarin presents to him a group of soldiers for inspection. As an archer from the group begins to prostrate himself, a soldier in the royal entourage gazes up at a gold and scarlet standard situated amongst ephemeral leaves fading into a bright, cloud-filled sky reminiscent of contemporaneous western landscapes. This early example of Cantonese oil painting is related to two smaller works on glass, one at the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, and the other at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the latter of which is stated to have been painted for Richard Hall of the East India Company, who was in Canton from 1785 until 1802. (See Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Lieden, "Sensitive Plates," catalog by Paul van Dongen, 1995, no. 13, and Margaret Jourdain and R. Soame Jenyns, Chinese Export Art in the Eighteenth Century, 1950, p. 37 and pl. 66.)
Scattered spots and small lines of retouch throughout sky, and to a much lesser extent in the faces and dress of the figures below.
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