An Imperial portrait of Consort Chunhui Attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione, Qianlong period
Lot 200
An Imperial portrait of Consort Chunhui Attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione, Qianlong period
Sold for HK$ 39,860,000 (US$ 5,079,959) inc. premium

Lot Details
An Imperial portrait of Consort Chunhui Attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione, Qianlong period An Imperial portrait of Consort Chunhui Attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione, Qianlong period
An Imperial portrait of Consort Chunhui
Attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione, Qianlong period
Oil on gaoli paper, vividly painted in brilliant colours depicting the sitter in front profile from the waist up, her serene expression delicately rendered with full naturalistic attention, her face bright as if from natural sunlight, revealing a young yet dignified woman opulently adorned in the finest quality robes, wearing a black feather hat, pearl earrings and a sumptuous orange-ground embroidered dragon robe, all against a mottled pale grey ground.
54.5 by 41.5cm

Estimate upon request


  • Provenance:
    General Henri Nicolas Frey (1847- 1932), French Commander of the Eight-Nation alliance in China, 1900
    Sotheby's Hong Kong, 2 May 2005, lot 529

    Nie Chongzhen, A Study of Portraits of the Qianlong Emperor and Consorts, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, 2005, Issue 9, pp.89-90.

    Nie Chongzhen, An extremely rare Imperial portrait of Consort Chunhui and Oil Portrait Paintings in Qing Dynasty Palace, CANS, Taipei, February 2006, no.97, pp.36-40, and illustrated on the cover.

    Nie Chongzhen, On Imperial Oil Portrait Paintings of Emperors and Consorts in Qing Dynasty Palace, Palace Museum Journal, Taipei, 2008, Issue 2, pp.50-59.

    Liang Lian, A Discovery of Giuseppe Castiglione's Authentic Artworks, China Collections, Taipei, 2008, Issue 3, pp.70-75.

    The current painting depicts Consort Chunhui, the daughter of Su Zhaonan. Born during the Kangxi reign, Lady Su entered the Forbidden City during the Yongzheng period and became a concubine of the Yongzheng emperor's fourth son, Hongli, the future Qianlong Emperor. On his acendancy in 1736, she became his official consort, granted the title of Imperial Concubine Chun. In 1737, she was promoted to the rank of Consort Chun, and in 1745 was elevated to the status of Noble Consort Chun. In 1760, she was conferred the title of Imperial Noble Consort Chun, making her second only to the Empress in the Imperial harem. After her death later that year, she was posthumously honoured as Imperial Noble Consort Chunhui, and interred in the Yuling Mausoleum for concubines of the Qing emperors.

    Other than the current painting, there are two recorded depictions of her. The first is on the famous handscroll painted by Castiglione in 1736, the Inauguration Portrait of Qianlong: the Empress, and the Eleven Imperial Consorts (fig.1), which depicts half portraits of the Qianlong emperor, empress and eleven of his consorts, Chunhui appearing as the second consort. This handscroll is in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and was illustrated in Cecile and Michael Beurdeley, Castiglione, Peintre Jesuit a la Cour de Chine, Fribourg, 1971, pp. 98-101; and again in the National Palace Museum exhibition Emperor Chi'enlung's Grand Cultural Enterprise, Taipei, 2002, cat. 1-2. The second depiction is on a large Imperial portrait (fig.2), also from the collection of General Frey, which depicts her in formal robes on a throne, painted in shengrong style on silk, sold at Vente Poulain-Le Fur-Ricqles, France, 23 September 2001, lot 128, and illustrated, Cabinet Portier. 100 ans. 1909-2009 , p.151, no. 651, and now in a private collection.

    Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766) (Chinese name Lang Shining) was the longest serving of the missionary-artists at the Qing court, with a career spanning fifty-one years, during which he worked for the Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors. Born in Milan, he entered the Society of Jesus in Genoa in 1707 at the age of nineteen. As a novitiate, he had time to develop his interest in painting, so that by the time he received orders from the Society to spread the faith in China in 1714, he was already proficient. Arriving in Macau in 1715, he quickly assimilated and learned Chinese language and customs, before being transferred to Beijing. Recommended by a fellow missionary Matteo Ripa (1682-1746) he was summoned for an audience with the Kangxi Emperor.

    As Wang Yao-ting explains in New Visions at the Ch'ing Court: Giuseppe Castiglione and Western-Style Trends, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2007 pp.142-147, this audience 'inaugurated a new age in the history of Chinese court painting'. Of all the Western missionaries at Court, Castiglione was the most skilled at painting. He served as a senior court artist, playing a crucial role in introducing Western style trends on painting and fusing them with traditional Chinese techniques, formats and subject matter.

    This fusion of Chinese and Western techniques is encapsulated in the famous painting in the Palace Museum, Beijing of the Qianlong Emperor Reviewing Troops, illustrated in Paintings by the Court Artists of the Qing Court, Hong Kong, 1996, p.151, pl.29 (fig.1). The portrait of the Emperor on horseback is crisp and bold, remarkable for the lack of brush strokes in ink to define the outlines of the form. He and his horse are depicted bathed in brilliant light, with the overall rendering of colours fully reflecting the effects of light and shadow derived from Western notions of life painting. However, the landscape in the background is painted in traditional Chinese style.

    Nowhere is Castiglione's opulent style of painting and extraordinary skill in painting meticulous figure subjects better conveyed than on his portrait of the Qianlong Emperor in formal Court dress, illustrated, ibid, p.150, pl.28 (fig.2). The fact that he was selected to paint a portrait of such high ritual importance demonstrates the standing he enjoyed at Court. His tombstone after his death in Beijing on 16 July 1766 was engraved with an inscription presented by the Emperor.

    By comparing the portrait of Consort Chunhui on the aforementioned handscroll by Castiglione in the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Inauguration Portrait of Qianlong: the Empress, and the Eleven Imperial Consorts, in which she appears fourth in the sequence, with the current portrait, lot 200 (fig.2), it is clear that not only do both depict the same sitter, but also that they are clearly painted by the same hand. Both portraits are also closely related in style and composition with other portraits attributed to Castiglione, including: Portrait de L'Empereur Qianlong (fig.3) in the Guimet Museum (MG 26586), illustrated in Catalogue Les très Riches Heures de la Cour de Chine, Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, ....; Portrait of Empress Xiaoxian (fig.4), illustrated in Paintings by the Court Artists of the Qing Court, Hong Kong, 1996, p. 206, pl.50; and Portrait of Imperial Concubine Wan (fig.5), illustrated, ibid, p.209, pl.53.

    General Henri Nicolas Frey was born in Bonifacio in 1847, the son of a policeman who pursued a military career, rising quickly through the ranks to with distinguished service in Senegal, New Caledonia, Madagaskar, then colonies of France. It was the events in Beijing in 1900, however, which have resonated through history. As the French Commander of the Eight-Nation alliance in China in 1900, he was responsible for extensive looting after the Battle of Beijing and relief of the legations. The French headquarters were located at the Shouhuang Dian ('Hall of Imperial Longevity') in Jingshan Park, where portraits and treasured relics of previous emperors were stored. Numerous portraits and articles were looted as spoils of war by the French, headed by Frey, of which some were later donated to the Guimet Museum, and others sold at auction, including seals of the Kangxi and Qianlong emperors and several Imperial portraits, including the current lot. The famous painting Kazakhs presenting horses to the Qianlong Emperor, painted in 1757 by Castiglione, and illustrated in Catalogue Les très Riches Heures de la Cour de Chine, Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, pp.166-167, cat. no. 78 (fig.1) was given to the Guimet Museum (MG 17033) by General Frey on 20 July 1925, as recorded in a decree from the Guimet Museum archives (fig.2). The archives also preserve a handwritten letter (fig.3) by General Frey to the director of the Guimet Museum 12 March 1914, in which he discusses four paintings he was considering donating to the museum, including a scroll attributed to Castiglione, a portrait of an empress or Imperial concubine, another portrait of a concubine that may have deteriorated during transport, and a fourth painting in poor condition.

    清乾隆 郎世寧(傳) 純惠貴妃油畫半身像 油彩高麗紙


    弗雷將軍(Henri Nicolas Frey)收藏畫作,1900年間法軍於中國司令官


    純惠皇貴妃(1713 – 1760),蘇氏,蘇召南之女。康熙五十二年五月生,雍正在位時被選入皇宮入侍潘邸為格格,為寶親王弘歷的侍妾之一。待乾隆帝即位後,被冊封為純嬪,乾隆二年(1737年)冊封為純妃,乾隆十年(1745年)又被冊封為純貴妃,至乾隆二十五年(1960年)四月晉封為純皇貴妃,號位僅次於皇后。純皇貴妃生前於雍正十三年(1735年)生皇三子永璋,乾隆八年(1743年)生皇六子永瑢,其逝後被葬於裕陵妃園寢,位於諸妃之上。

    除本件油畫外,純惠皇貴妃之畫像還可見於郎世寧乾隆元年(1736年)所作設色絹本《心寫治平圖》卷之上,該圖又稱《高宗帝后及后妃像》,現藏於美國克利夫蘭博物館(圖一)。詳見Cecile與Michael Beurdeley編,《Castiglione, Peintre Jesuit a la Cour de Chine》,弗里堡,1971年,頁98-101;另見國立故宮博物院編,《乾隆皇帝的文化大業》,2007年,頁18,圖版1-2。此外,另一幅郎世寧作純惠皇貴妃朝服像設色絹本軸,同樣來源於弗雷(Frey)將軍收藏畫作,曾出現於法國2001年的拍賣會上,該作現被私人收藏。詳見Vente Poulain-Le Fur-Ricqles, 2001年9月23日,拍品128,另見出版《Cabinet Portier. 100 ans. 1909 – 2009》,頁151,圖版651。

    郎世寧(1688 – 1766),原名Giuseppe Castiglione,在清代同時扮演了傳教士及宮廷御用畫師兩個重要的角色,為朝廷效力長達51年之久。出生於意大利米蘭一個具有耶穌會背景的家庭,郎世寧在1707年在熱內亞(Genoa)加入耶穌會,開始了他的見習修士生涯,時年19歲。在修士期間,他便受到嚴格的繪畫基本訓練,並為教堂畫了兩幅壁畫。1714年,郎世寧受到耶穌會傳道部的派遣前往中國傳教。康熙五十四年(1715年)抵達澳門後,入鄉隨俗採用了中國名字 – 郎世寧。同年2月22日抵達北京,在意大利傳教士馬國賢(Matteo Ripa, 1682 – 1745年)的引薦下,被康熙帝召見,隨後成為康熙、雍正、乾隆三位皇帝的御用畫家。

    王耀庭認為,文化藝術交流成為了清代西洋傳教士更重要的角色,他們直接任職於宮廷作畫,將西洋的繪畫技巧融入中國繪畫裡,而這類具有「西洋風」的清代宮廷繪畫也成為當時藝術的重要特徵之一,為中土開啟了「新視界」(王耀庭,《新世界 – 郎世寧與清宮西洋風》,國立故宮博物院,2007年,頁12-18。)。而在眾多西洋傳教士畫家當中,又以郎世寧來華時間最久,畫技超凡,他無疑是推動中西藝術文化交流的最有影響力的畫家。

    從郎世寧流傳至今的作品來看,其畫作致力於中西繪畫精髓的調和。例如眾所周知藏於北京故宮博物院的《乾隆大閱圖軸》(圖一),描繪乾隆皇帝即位後第四年(1739年)在京郊南苑舉行閱兵式的情景。他使用精緻的筆觸及西方獨具質感的造型,描繪了身著甲胄頭盔,佩戴弓箭的乾隆帝,其華麗的色澤及光影明暗的表現具有很濃厚的歐洲繪畫風格,然而其背景山水表現亦成中國傳統圖式。見《故宮博物院藏文物珍品全集 – 清代宮廷繪畫》,香港,1999年,頁151,圖版29。

    郎世寧所作肖像畫,顏料濃膩,猶如西洋油畫光鮮亮麗,細緻渲染,筆法工整,正如乾隆讚其「著色精細入毫末」一樣,現藏於北京故宮博物院的一幅郎世寧作《乾隆朝服像軸》便是最完美的例證,見《故宮博物院藏文物珍品全集 – 清代宮廷繪畫》,香港,1999年,頁150,圖版28。其在世期間受到乾隆皇帝的榮寵,而病逝於北京後,乾隆親自頒旨,為其墓誌銘題文,更可見宮廷的地位。

    將本件拍品所繪純妃與美國克利夫蘭博物館藏公認為郎世寧所作《心寫治平圖》卷中純妃比較,兩人不但相貌一致,繪畫為同一人之外,依其相同繪畫手法更可斷定兩幅作品皆應出自同一畫師之手(圖二)。在繪畫手法及構圖與這兩幅都極為相似的其他作品還包括法國巴黎吉美博物館藏《乾隆皇帝半身朝服像》屏(藏品編號MG 26586)(圖三),見圖錄《Les très Riches Heures de la Cour de Chine, Réunion des musées nationaux》,巴黎;北京故宮博物院藏《孝賢皇后半身朝服像》屏,以及北京故宮博物院藏《婉嬪半身朝服像》屏,見《故宮博物院藏文物珍品全集 – 清代宮廷繪畫》,香港,1999年,頁206、209,圖版50、53,而以上畫作均被公認為郎世寧所作。

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