Through Distant Eyes: Portraiture in Chinese Export Art

Through Chinese porcelain, unfired clay sculptures and paintings on glass, our 2018 exhibition and catalogue focuses on the representation of Westerners on export art during the 18th and 19th centuries. These portrayals are considered in the context of the forces at play in Europe at the time and in parallel to their relevance to those who would have ordered or acquired such pieces. Mostly ordered through private trade in small numbers, the objects featured in this exhibition were produced in China, but in some instances decorated in Holland, for a multiplicity of purposes: tokens of personal association with religious or political movements, family mementos, personal status, fashionable furnishings and commemorative and satirical commentary on current events. The exhibition also illustrates the mastery of the Chinese artists in achieving, with a high degree of skill an accurate appearance of those portrayed, even though their sources were simply secondary representations, such as prints and medals.