Arts and Culture
This paper examines three Chinese Qing dynasty kuancai (incised) lacquer folding screens depicting Europeans hunting: one from Ham House, England (1670s); one from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (about 1700); and one from the Copenhagen National Museum (1790s). In the Ham House screen the Europeans are shown hunting, and playing music in a tent, linking them to the iconography of steppe peoples. In the latter two screens, the Europeans are associated by means of ship flags with the Dutch. The two latter compositions both reveal an exotic European building at right, a hunting scene at center, and the spectacle of ships loading for departure at left—an organization parallel (though inverse to) Japanese Namban screens showing the Portuguese arriving at Nagasaki. Some of the Chinese borrowing of Namban imagery may be due to competition between Chinese and Japanese exports. In addition, by visually associating the Dutch traders with Namban depictions as well as paintings of Mongols hunting, all three screens cast the Dutch traders as a new type of barbarian. The Copenhagen screen also labels one ship a “Dutch tribute ship,” suggesting that the European figures are loading exotic goods for delivery to the Chinese emperor. Many variations on the mix-and-match themes employed were possible. There was an audience for these screens in China. Europeans also enjoyed these images of hunting, with which elite families identified. This paper will explore differing interpretations of the subject matter from the perspective of these very different reception contexts.