This painting of Xiang Fei, the Fragrant Concubine, led me on a fascinating artistic hunt. Why did the portrait strike me? I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but upon later study, I realized my fascination with the painting was because it blended Western and Eastern styles.
Giuseppe Castiglione or Lang Shining painted the portrait in the 18th century. Castiglione, born in 1688 in Milan, trained as an artist in Europe before joining the Jesuits at 19. He was sent to China to serve under the Qing Dynasty emperor.
In China, Castiglione adopted the name Lang Shining and fused his Western artistic training with Eastern techniques. He served under three Qing Dynasty emperors, ultimately becoming a court painter. He died in China in 1766.
He painted several series for the emperors, including my favorite, the Emperor’s prized dogs!