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Cavalière (blessures cachées), 2012

pastel and gold leaf on paper

144 x 55 cm

© Bastow

It was after a visit to an exhibition at the Louvre on the French and Chinese imperial courts in the eighteenth century that I started this series.

 

II was particularly struck by the portraits of the emperor Qianlong (and later by those of his wife the empress Xiao Xian) painted by the jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione. These were frontal portraits with no modelling or chiaroscuro, which the emperor thought made his face look dirty, combined with the attention to detail and fabric typical of renaissance painting. There were also an impressive series of portraits of the horses that the emperor had received as gifts.

 

These pastels are all imaginary portraits. Traditionally women in the imperial court were never drawn from life but from a series of coded indications similar to those used now by the police to make their « portrait robots », she has a face shape A, a nose shape C , mouth shape F etc .

 

After the first couple of these imaginary « portraits » I started to visualize a whole army of women, empresses, courtesans, warriors both adolescent and adult (they evidently existed), ranged in rows like the terracotta army in the tomb of Qin Shi Huang.

 

The works presented at the Galerie Blondel are a selection from this series of 100 Femmes Chinoises.

 

At the same time there will be a signature of the book « Rêves Chinois », poemes by Clémence de Biéville with reproductions of some of the works. This book was printed on Hahnemühle Rice Paper and bound by the artist at his studio in the south of France.

 

Michael Bastow