Castiglione arrived in Beijing in the 54th year of Kangxi, 1715 in our calendar. The skills of this young man aged 27 appealed to the emperor and he became a court painter under the name Lang Shining. He never left the imperial court. In his outstanding career that lasted half a century without harm or conflict, he assimilated the traditional techniques of Chinese graphic art without forgetting his original training.
The court painters were considered as imperial officials and did not sign their works. Lang Shining and his studio are credited with near certainty for the paintings that incorporate such Western features like perspective or like the shades that enhance the realism of the face.
The official portraits of the Emperor and his favorite Ladies are a tradition in the Chinese court. In the first year of Qianlong, a scroll shows the Emperor and the Empress aside with no less than eleven consort spouses.
One of these eleven concubines remained a favorite until her death in the 25th year of Qianlong, 1760 of our calendar, when this former commoner had just reached the highest position behind the Empress. On October 7 in Hong Kong, Sotheby's sells as lot 3202 her portrait where she is designated in a calligraphy by the emperor's hand under the name of her ultimate dignity, Imperial Noble Consort Chunhui.
According to the imperial tradition, the Lady is sitting on a magnificent throne. She is wearing a robe of highest luxury and a long chain necklace. The face is young and smooth for this woman who died at the age of 47, but the original portrait with the other concubines had certainly served as a modello. The press release of September 1 announces an expected price in excess of HK $ 60M.
The artwork for sale by Sotheby's is a hanging scroll in ink and colors on silk 198 x 123 cm. It is shared on Wikimedia (see below).
On 27 May 2012, Bonhams sold for HK $ 40M including premium a portrait up the waist of the same favorite, oil on paper 55 x 42 cm.