10/12/2015, 00.00
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Taipei’s National Museum celebrates Jesuit artist Giuseppe Castiglione

by Xin Yage
To celebrate the 90 years since the founding of the museum, one of the world's most important, exhibit of Jesuit artist who served three emperors living 51 years in the Forbidden City. Ceramic work, based on his paintings, was given to Pope Francis for the start of his pontificate.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - A major exhibition to celebrate the 90th anniversary of one of the greatest museums of the world and the extraordinary work of a Jesuit priest in China, opened on October 8 at the Museum of the National Palace, which is based in Beijing and Taipei.

In the prestigious Taipei seat, which houses most of the museums works of art, the exhibition is dedicated to the famous artist from Milan, Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧), who lived for 51 years in the Forbidden City after his arrival in China 300 years ago, this year.

As a Jesuit, immediately after the novitiate, he left Genoa for Portugal and then China, where he arrived in 1715. Having unique artistic skills and being able to serve three emperors of the Qing Dynasty (Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong order) he became an artist of reference in the history of China. He succeeded in calibrating and linking two pictorial traditions, the Chinese based on ink and rice paper and Western use of oil painting, chiaroscuro and perspective.

For the first time, two paintings have been shipped to Taipei from the Pius Martinez Institute of Genoa, along with other works kept at the French National Library, Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in the United States to complete a collection of the artists’ works. Also an entire section is devoted to the beautiful multimedia show based on the works of the Milanese Jesuit, made by the University of Technology of Hong Kong and prints from the Taipei studio.

Inaugurating the exhibit the museum director was joined by President Ma Ying-jeou and the deputy director of the museum in Beijing. Present, in addition to a large local crowd, numerous international authorities, diplomatic and academic delegations.

Attendees also included the owner of Franz ceramic industries (法 藍 瓷), who gave Ma Ying-jeou's a ceramic based on Castiglione’s famous One hundred horses, gifted to Pope Francis, himself a Jesuit, at Mass start of his pontificate.

This year has seen widespread interest in Castiglione after the success of the documentary aired in China last April and 30 September in Italy, produced by Jiangsu TV (Nanjing) and Kuangchi Program Service (Taipei).

On Wednesday, September 30 there was a special viewing for a few hundred privileged spectators in Milan, homeland of the artist, of this documentary film, entitled "Giuseppe Castiglione in China: the imperial painter, humble servant. "

At the same time - but always in Italy in Florence, in the Church of the Holy Cross – there is an ongoing digital media exhibition on the works of Castiglione, which really deserves to be visited.

The Jesuit’s humility, his artistic talents and hard work are apparent in his uniting of two artistically and culturally very distant worlds, the European and the Chinese. His legacy continues in a dialogue and an encounter which transcends all possible differences and divergent views. It is no coincidence that the emperor Qianlong entrusted the design and construction of the pavilions of the Old Summer Palace on the western outskirts of Beijing to an elderly Castiglione, even though he was only a "humble artist".

His works now represent both a source of Chinese national pride and the finesse of the Renaissance period in Europe where Castiglione was formed as a young artist in Milan. Indeed his baptismal certificate is still preserved in the diocesan archives dated 1688.

Starting this week, the treasures of his art will amaze visitors to the Taipei museum who over the course of the next four months will be able to view them in their smallest detail and unspeakable beauty.

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