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Copper Plates for the Qianlong Emperor: from Paris to Peking via Canton*

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image of Journal of Early Modern History

Abstract In the early 1760s, Jesuit missionaries serving as court artists in Peking were instructed by the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736-96) to produce a set of sixteen sketches in celebration of his recent victories over the Mongols and the Turkic Muslims in the region of present-day Xinjiang. The designs that were to be engraved on copper plates and printed in Europe were dispatched from Canton to Paris where the work was executed. Yet it was not until 1777, over a decade after the Qianlong emperor had initiated the project that his order was fully realized and the sixteen original designs, the sixteen copper plates, and 200 prints drawn from each plate, had all arrived in Beijing. This paper explores the politics behind the execution of this unique set of prints.

Affiliations: 1: University of Oxford


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