In the Language of the Other: Giuseppe Castiglione, a Jesuit Painter in the 17th Century China

He picked up his things and moved fearlessly across the world. Unsure of what he would find, he desired to share his thoughts and beliefs. Surprisingly, the foreign culture impacted every aspect of his life – from his name to his art.

Born in Milan, Italy, Giuseppe Castiglione (1688 – 1766), better known as Lang Shining, reached China as a Jesuit missionary in 1715. His open mind earned him a spot in the Chinese court as a painter. Through cultural exchange, Castiglione blended the Renaissance ideals of shading and atmospheric perspective into the Chinese art, creating a new style. This transformative technique epitomizes the international customs Castiglione experienced. Through Castiglione’s art, we share his adventure of understanding culture – the surprising similarities and the stark differences. Centuries later, Castiglione’s originative ideas return back to Italy.

Poster New Social

The upcoming exhibition at Santa Croce Museum, The Temple of Memory, will showcase Castiglione’s work for the first time in his homeland. This exhibition fuses traditional and multimedia art in a new type of gallery. To create this experience, National Palace Museum of Taiwan in collaboration with the City University of Hong Kong, created a very special high tech exhibition for the Florentine audience.  Technology brings the art to life, recreating the magic the world once saw in the 1700s.

A_Peacock Made_of _Light

Basilica of Santa Croce, located in the historic district of Florence, symbolizes significant cultural unification by connecting differing views across the world. Now, the same complex where greats such as Michelangelo and Galileo are buried is going to host Castiglione’s exhibit. Santa Croce is not only a church for the bishops or the devout; it’s a church for mankind. The cultural crossroads of Santa Croce serve as a home to a different type of communication – art. Both Santa Croce’s artistic and spiritual legacy and Castiglione’s exhibition transcend language, culture and beliefs.

Castiglione’s exhibit embodies the Santa Croce’s ideals of transformative art. His work revolutionized an entire region, created cross-cultural dialogue and speaks to similar unifying threads of our age. The life and work of Lang Shining inspires his audience to keep their minds open and to immerse themselves into the culture of the other.

peacock 2

Guest bloggers Sarah Waller, a graduate of Oklahoma State University, and Erica Kavanagh, an undergraduate student from the University of Tampa, are currently involved in a writing-based experiential learning project at Florence University of Art.

Photos © Opera di Santa Croce, Firenze/National Palace Museum, Taiwan.


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