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Matteo Ricci first Introduced European perspective to Chinese Painters

This is a writing of CHANG KENG, found in the book Gems of Chinese literature by H. A Giles.

Chang Kêng lived in 18th century a.d. He was the author of the Kwo hua ch'eng lu, published in 1739, a collection of short biographies of one hundred and thirty artists, exclusive of nine Buddhist priests, one Taoist priest, and ten women, followed by a supplement containing lives of seventy-two more artists, exclusive of six Buddhist priests and twelve women. The "Chiao," mentioned below, is Chiao Ping-chen, who painted "according to the method of western foreigners," and reproduced, with improved perspective, the pictures entitled "Agriculture and Weaving," by Liu Sung-nien (a.d. 1195- 1224)


UNDER the Ming dynasty there was Li Ma-tou (Matteo Ricci), a native of Europe, who, being able to speak Chinese, came to the southern capital (Nanking) and lived in the western camp at the Cheng-yang gate. He painted a picture of the Pope, and depicted a woman holding a little child, declaring that this last was a representation of God. The projection and colouring of these were very fascinating; and the artist himself maintained that the Chinese could only paint flat surfaces, consequently there was no projection or depression (relief) in their pictures. We in our country, he said, paint both the light and the dark, so that the result shows projection and depression. A man's full face is light, and the side parts are dark. If the side parts are coloured dark in a picture, the face will appear in relief. Chiao acquired this art, and modified his style accordingly, but the result was not refined and convincing. Lovers of antiquity would do well not to adopt this method.
A Jesuit in the Forbidden City: Matteo Ricci, 1552-1610Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) and Another Christian Missionary to China, from "China Illustrated" Giclee Poster Print, 18x24


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