by Abhishek Das
Unidentified Artist Chinese, Qianlong reign, 1736 – 1795 Plate with Topographic Views, c. 1745, porcelain
Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gift of Richard D. Pardue, 2011.19
From the period of 1736 to 1795, China was ruled by a dominant leader of Yongzheng descent, named Qianlong. During his reign, China experienced a period of success in various aspects of society, including education, agriculture, politics, and art. Qianlong, as a successful emperor, commissioned hordes of people from China and some from Europe to create art pieces. This heavy artistic influence in China came to life in the form of various sculptures and royal architecture, and other objects, including forms of silverware, plates, fabrics, and other household items, and they were commissioned for both European and Chinese artists.
This decoration on this plate appears to be European in style, as we can see from the coat of arms at the bottom of the plate. The image of a coat of arms is directly European, emphasizing the transculturation of European art forms in a Chinese setting. Additionally, the animal image at the top of the plate depicts a banner and lion figure that were consistent with European art in the late Middle Ages. On the sides of the plate, images of Western-style ships crossing a body of water can be representative of Europeans in the process of transculturation as they come to China on ships to bring their forms of art and forms of life. The center of the plate features a largely European landscape, including the terrace images and Gothic architecture that are principally European. This plate is a prime example of the merging of European and Chinese art forms.