Giuseppe Castiglione (1688 -1766) is mostly known as an Italian painter. The fact is that he was also a Jesuit Brother as well as a missionary in China (Beurdeley and Beurdeley, 1972). It was because of his religious background that his fate took him to the Far East and shaped him into who we know him today. He was a painter at the Emperor’s court.
The future artist was born in Milan and took painting studies in Italy with the help of Carlo Cornara from a distinguished painting school. Castiglione likewise experienced the impact of the prominent artist Andrea Pozzo, an associate of the Society of Jesus at the town of Trento (Beurdeley and Beurdeley, 1972). In 1707, while Castiglione was 19 years of age, he officially joined the Jesuit Society and journeyed to the thriving city of Genoa for additional artist training (Beurdeley and Beurdeley, 1972). By that time, he had definitely attained some reputation as an artist and was asked to accomplish wall artwork at various Jesuit churches. When he 27, he obtained directions to head to China, and, on his way there, produced wall paintings in a number of Jesuit church buildings in Coimbra (Portugal) as well as Macao (Beurdeley and Beurdeley, 1972). When it was 1715, he reached China and began serving there as a missionary. When living in China, he obtained the name Lang Shining. It should be mentioned that the Emperor Qianlong valued his talent as an artist, and he paid a lot of time to painting numerous people, among them the pictures of the Emperor and his wife (Naquin, 2009). His style appeared to be a distinctive combination of the European atmosphere with Chinese methods and designs. Nevertheless, his style was tailored in accordance with Chinese preference. The solid shadows utilized in chiaroscuro approaches were undesirable, as Emperor Qianlong believed that dark areas seemed to look like filth (Naquin, 2009). For that reason, when he painted the Emperor, the depth of the light was lowered to ensure that there was no dark area on the face, and the facial features were clear. His style was centered on color, light and perspective present in the Italian Renaissance fine art (Naquin, 2009). In China, Castiglione, or as it has been mentioned earlier, Lang Shining, was noticed by the Qianlong emperor and functioned as a painter for the court. Lang Shining in due course grew to become a highly regarded artist and gained the gratitude of the Qianlong emperor, which appeared to be a significant tribute for an overseas painter of his time (Naquin, 2009).
Keeping with the preferences and customs of Chinese painting, Lang Shining managed to create an innovative style that incorporated the features of his Western schooling in fine art. His works of art were produced with Chinese materials, yet they typically integrated Western approaches to shading as well as perspective, providing a touch of realism to the indigenous motifs (“Giuseppe Castiglione”, n.d.). In combination with his apparent talent as an artist, he was likewise responsible for designing the Western-Style Palaces in the Old Summer Palace gardens.
This notable Jesuit painter, architect, and missionary passed away in Beijing (“Giuseppe Castiglione”, n.d.). Because of Lang Shining's work, the Qing court artwork started to demonstrate an evident Western impact. A number of other European artists adopted his technique. Consequently, an innovative style of painting was developed, that blended Western and Chinese approaches (“Giuseppe Castiglione”, n.d.). The impact of Western style on the Qing court art is especially apparent in the shade, light, and perspective in addition to the emphasis placed on documenting present-day activities. Lang Shining was successful in changing European painting methods by removing projection and decreasing the contrast between shade and light, at the same time holding onto three-dimensional perspective and appearance (“Giuseppe Castiglione”, n.d.).
“Deer Hunting Patrol”, kept in the Palace Museum in Taipei, is one particular illustration of that point. The piece of art was produced on silk, displaying a deer hunt, joined by Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) (“Lang Shining”, n.d.). It should be mentioned that the third rider mounted on a white horse, with a bow by his side riding at the forefront of the group, is the Emperor himself, who was thirty years old at that moment (“Lang Shining”, n.d.). Several of his court officials escorted him. The majority of them, similar to Laibao at the beginning of the procession, who appeared to be the minister responsible for the royal residence at that time, seemed more aged compared to him, even though many others, such as Fuheng, a security guard, were relatively younger (“Lang Shining”, n.d.).
After thirty-three years from the described hunting experience, Qianlong composed a verse to compliment the artwork, telling how Lang Shining followed his orders after he had had his hunting experience for the very first time (“Lang Shining”, n.d.). In the verse, he expressed his sadness because the two men, Fuheng and Laibao, participating in the hunt, were already deceased (“Lang Shining”, n.d.).
The appearance of the Emperor as well as other significant people conforms to the guidelines of Western portrait painting. Pictures of the men and horses were definitely made in line with real life, for the reason that there is a special consideration of detail in addition to a solid sense of firmness (“Lang Shining”, n.d.). Although the contrast between shade and light may be less specific, the usage of trees and hills as the background conforms to the guidelines of conventional Chinese artwork. The cavalcade moving forward is clearly displayed, and the dimensions of objects and people, in the appropriate proportion to their space ranges, feature an effect of depth in the work. Lang Shining cooperated with a Chinese artist Tang Dai on "Deer Hunting Patrol". Lang Shining produced the Emperor and the principal characters, whilst Tang assumed responsibility for the trees and hills in the backdrop (“Lang Shining”, n.d.).
Other than this type of historical artwork, among the most essential pieces of art created by Lang Shining were royal portraits of the Emperor, his wife as well as imperial concubines. Thus, the picture "The Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial Armor on Horseback", kept in the Palace Museum in Taipei, demonstrates Emperor Qianlong in a fine-looking appearance. The artwork features no signature, yet the style and the brush lines refer to a painting by Lang Shining. This particular picture of Emperor Qianlong in armor displays him as a remarkable young man in late twenties. The Emperor was examining the Qing troops mounted on a horse. Despite the fact that the portrait materials were conventional Chinese pigments and brush, his overall look, the horse, such features as the clouds and the vegetation in the forefront, are all pictured with light and shade that reveal the artist's Italian schooling. Solely the remote mountains comply with the stylistic practice of Qing court scenery art.
A skilled specialist in remarkable draftsmanship as well as big-scale compositions, Giuseppe Castiglione likewise served as a muralist when he was in Europe. In China, he assisted to generate an innovative, mixed painting style that merged the methods of brushwork and composition of conventional Chinese and Western realism.