It was after viewing European battle prints by the Augsburg engraver Georg Philipp Rugendas (1666-1742) that Qianlong commissioned Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), the best known of the European Jesuit painters who served in the Qing court, to produce a series of similar wall paintings for the central hall of the palace in Beijing.
The subject was the brutal campaign fought against the Dzungar Khanate in Central Asia between 1755-59, part of what the emperor would later call The Ten Great Campaigns (Shiquan Wugong).
The 16 large copper engravings made of these paintings were the brainchild of Louis-Joseph Le Febvre, head of the French Jesuit mission to China, Drawings were sent to Paris, where the plates were made by eight artists under the direction of Charles-Nicolas Cochin (1715-90) of the Academie Royale at the court of Louis XVI.
A commission that offered France a means of currying favour in China was considered of the utmost importance.
To ensure Qianlong received the 100 copies he requested, 200 were printed and split between two ships. As it turned out, the entire edition was received in China by 1775 for which the Compagnie Francaise des Indes in Canton was paid the sum of 240,000 livres.
Complete copies rarely appear on the market. Offered on July 6 at £120,000-180,000, this album sold at £190,000 (plus 26% buyer’s premium).