Chinese : Twelve paintings of the Court and Society


<p style='text-align: justify;'>These are colourful ‘export art’ portraits of the imperial couple Daoguang and Xiaojingcheng and members of the court. In the words of art historian Craig Clunas, ‘the emperor’s ‘portrait’ is of course totally fictitious, the sort of thing the workshops of Guangzhou made for foreign customers, so this is “export art”, if that is still a meaningful category’ (personal correspondence, 8 September 2020). There is a certain fusion of Chinese and Manchu styles here. The emperor wears the iconic Chinese dragon robe, his empress the corresponding phoenix robe. Both also wear Manchu-style court hats.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'> The Daoguang era (1820-1850) saw internal rebellions and the First Sino-British Opium War (1839-1842). The Opium War ended with the Qing’s defeat, the Treaty of Nanjing (1842) enforced the opening of additional ‘treaty ports’ alongside the existing treaty port Guangzhou (Canton): Xiamen, Fuzhou, and Shanghai. Emperor Daoguang’s reign can thus be seen as a turning point, the end of a ‘golden era’: the stability of the Kangxi and Qianlong reigns was lost forever. </p>

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