Giuseppe Castiglione was born in Milan, Italy in 1688. Entering the Jesuit order at the age of 19, he came to China in 1715 and was appointed court painter at the Imperial Palace in Beijing. During his stay, he served in this position under three emperors, painting under the Chinese name Lang Shining.

By this time, the Jesuit missionaries who served at the imperial court in Beijing did not hesitate to make use of all the optical devices made available to them to mesmerize the emperor and his retinue. For example, Claudio Filippo Grimaldi (1639-1712), a contemporary of Castiglione entertained them in the gardens of the summer residence, using convex lenses, cylindrical and pyramidal mirrors and camera oscura , a device that consist of a box with a hole on one of its sides through which light form an external scene would pass and strike a surface inside where it would be reproduced upside-down, but with color and perspective.

In the same manner his coreligionists have fascinated the people of the court, Castiglione became a key figure in the artistic revival of the time, introducing Chinese painters to perspective, three-dimensionality and other western techniques.

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