The Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial Armor on Horseback

Giuseppe Castiglione

The Palace Museum

The Palace Museum
Beijing, China

Although no signature appears on this painting, scholars believe it is a work of the Italian Jesuit and Qing court painter Giuseppe Castiglione (Chinese name Lang Shining) due to the painting style. In an effort to boost military morale, the Qianlong Emperor would conduct a large-scale military inspection every three years. This portrait of the Qianlong Emperor in his ceremonial armor shows him as a young man of twenty-nine years of age; the painting is also a masterpiece of Giuseppe Castiglione when he reached the height of his success in Western-painting styles. At the time, the artist was in the process of learning traditional Chinese painting techniques. Although the painting materials used in this work were the traditional Chinese brush and pigments, the emperor’s appearance, horse, and surroundings –such as the cumulous clouds in the background and foliage in the foreground—are all portrayed with shade and light that betray the painter's Italian training. Only the distant mountains conform to the stylistic tradition of Qing court landscape paintings.


  • Title: The Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial Armor on Horseback
  • Creator: Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766, Chinese name Lang Shining)
  • Physical Dimensions: height: 332.5 cm, width: 232 cm
  • Provenance: Qing imperial collection
  • Type: painting
  • Medium: ink and color on silk
  • Dynasty: Qing dynasty

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