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China on Paper: European and Chinese Works from the Late Sixteenth
to the Early Nineteenth Century

At the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Center, November 6, 2007-February 10, 2008

September 24, 2007

LOS ANGELES—Drawn from the extensive holdings of the special collections of the Getty Research Institute, China on Paper: European and Chinese Works from the Late Sixteenth to the Early Nineteenth Century at the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Center, November 6, 2007-February 10, 2008 uses illustrated books, prints and maps to tell the fascinating story of cultural exchange between the Chinese and Europeans.

China on Paper opens a window on these vibrant and largely unexamined texts whereby the denizens of two vast regions created visions of themselves and each other in a newly expanded way,” says Marcia Reed, head of collection development at the GRI and exhibition co-curator.  While most people associate the China trade with porcelain, silk and tea, the exhibition highlights the exchange of ideas that came with commerce and the collecting of illustrated books, maps, and prints.

At the dawn of the era of global trade in the late 1600s, books and prints not only afforded Europeans glimpses of imperial China but also brought Western science, religion and art to the Chinese.  Produced in an atmosphere of mutual curiosity and collaboration, these works proposed China and Europe as similarly distant and exotic civilizations with parallel histories and some common values.  For example, the first printed works resulted from deliberate efforts to communicate ideas between cultures. The Jesuits translated Christian texts to aid in the instruction of Chinese converts as well as Confucian texts to enhance the European understanding of China.

Such cultural exchanges led to the creation and translation of such important documents as a method for reciting the Rosary and Instructions in the holy religion of the Lord of Heaven.  Attributed to the Portuguese Jesuit João da Rocha and printed in Nanjing in the early seventeenth century, missionaries used these documents as primary vehicles for the introduction of Christianity to China.

The centerpiece of the presentation is a selection of 12 from the suite of 20 rare prints of the European Pavilions of the Yuanmingyuan, called the Garden of Perfect Clarity.  Designed in the mid-eighteenth century by the Milanese architect Giuseppe Castiglione for the Qianlong emperor, the garden was based on Italian Baroque palaces and French pavilions that the emperor had seen in prints. The Yuanmingyuan suite is the only comprehensive eighteenth-century source that documents this extraordinary collaborative project.

Among other highlights in China on Paper are original editions of Belgian astronomer Ferdinand Verbiest’s Observationes astronomicae, the Liber Organicus, and the Compendium Latinum. An enormous, rare and well-preserved 1674 world map by Verbiest, the Kunyu quantu (in the Korean imprint of 1860), will also be on view.

China on Paper is curated by Marcia Reed, Head, Collection Development, Getty Research Institute, and Paola Demattè, Associate Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology, Rhode Island School of Design.

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Beth Brett
Getty Communications

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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The Getty Research Institute is an operating program of the J. Paul Getty Trust. It serves education in the broadest sense by increasing knowledge and understanding about art and its history through advanced research. The Research Institute provides intellectual leadership through its research, exhibition, and publication programs and provides service to a wide range of scholars worldwide through residencies, fellowships, online resources, and a Research Library. The Research Library - housed in the 201,000-square-foot Research Institute building designed by Richard Meier - is one of the largest art and architecture libraries in the world. The general library collections (secondary sources) include almost 900,000 volumes of books, periodicals, and auction catalogues encompassing the history of Western art and related fields in the humanities. The Research Library's special collections include rare books, artists' journals, sketchbooks, architectural drawings and models, photographs, and archival materials.