The Emperor Qianlong commissioned the original set of sixteen engravings of his conquests on 13 July 1765 for the central hall of the Palace in Beijing and is recorded to have said: 'I wish the sixteen prints of the victories that I won in the conquest of the kingdom of Chumgar and the neighbouring Mahommedan countries, which I had painted by Lamxinim [Castiglione] and the other European painters who are in my service in the city of Peking, to be sent to Europe where the best artists in copper shall be chosen so that they may render each of these prints perfectly in all its parts on plates of copper'.
The drawings were prepared in China by four Jesuits: Giuseppe Castiglione, the director of the project, Jean-Denis Attiret, Ignatius Sichelbarth and Jean Damascene. They were sent to Paris, where the engravings were executed by eight artists under the direction of Charles-Nicolas Cochin of the Académie Royale at the Court of Louis XVI. This commission was considered of utmost importance, as it potentially offered France means of leaving a favorable impression on the Emperor and thus gaining advantage in view of commerce and missioning, directed against the Dutch, Portuguese and English.
Complete sets of these engravings are relatively rare: a set is kept in the Bibliothèque Mazarine; another in the Bibliothèque Nationale; a third in the Musée Guimet; and a set given by Louis XVI to Necker, now in Castle Coppet in Switzerland. Another complete set was sold in our New York Rooms 20/21 March 1997, lot 286.