The present piece belongs to a special group of paintings made in the imperial painting workshop by court artists supervised by Jesuit missionary-artist Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766). Castiglione created works to fulfill imperial orders, which included historical events, flowers, horses, birds and others, and also trained Chinese artists who then helped him with his numerous projects. Nie Chongzheng in 'Lang Shining or Giuseppe Castiglione, an Italian Painter at the Qing Court, Spendors of China's Forbidden City. The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong, Chicago, 2004, p. 169, notes that Castigione 'not only created many paintings himself but also taught European techniques to Chinese court painters. Consequently, many Qing court paintings have a hybrid East-West character, which clearly distinguishes them from traditional Chinese court paintings, literati paintings, and folk paintings'. The present piece is the result of the court painters mixing a traditional Chinese painting genre with European style wildlife painting techniques.
See a painting by Castiglione and Tang Tai, Magpies and Peach Flowers, illustrated in Cecile et Michel Beurdeley, Castiglione, Peintre Jesuite a la Cour de Chine, Fribourg, 1971, p. 145; and another painting in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, attributed to Castigilone, Storks and Flowers, ibid., p. 131.
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