At the eighteenth-century Chinese court, an unprecedented type of monumental illusionistic painting seemed at first glance to be real spaces occupied by real figures and objects. Produced collaboratively by the best Chinese and Western painters serving the High Qing emperors, these works mounted on walls and ceilings blended native and foreign techniques in works of confounding perspectival deceptiveness, which were nonetheless deeply significant to their patron. Originally widely installed inside various imperial spaces in and around Beijing, today only a few survive, held almost exclusively inside restricted areas of the Forbidden City. In addition to offering new insights into late imperial China’s most influential rulers, these little-known paintings provide a new perspective on how Chinese art integrated and rejected foreign concepts during the height of early modern Sino-European exchange.
Kristina Kleutghen is Assistant Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis. She earned her Ph.D. in the History of Art and Architecture from Harvard University in 2010. Focusing on Chinese art of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), her research investigates the imperial court, optical devices, foreign contact, and connections to science and mathematics. Recent articles have appeared in Archives of Asian Art and Eighteenth-Century Studies, and recent research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Getty Research Institute. Her first book, Imperial Illusions: Crossing Pictorial Boundaries in the Qing Palaces, is forthcoming January 2015 with University of Washington Press.
Kristina Kleutghen, Assistant Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Washington University