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Tapestry: The Astronomers from The Story of the Emperor of China Series
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Beauvais Tapestry Manufactory; after designs by Guy-Louis Vernansal
French, Beauvais, about 1697 - 1705
Wool and silk; modern cotton lining
13 ft. 11 in. x 10 ft. 5 1/2 in.
83.DD.338

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In a tapestry from the set known as The Story of the Emperor of China series, European and Chinese figures assemble on a stone terrace around an elaborately mounted globe. In the center of the group stands the Chinese emperor, wearing the imperial insignia of the winged dragon and gesturing with one hand while the other rests possessively on the globe. The bearded man taking a measurement on the globe with a pair of compasses is the German Jesuit priest, Father Schall von Bell, who attained a high rank in the Qing court through his knowledge of Western astronomy. He headed the Imperial Astronomical Bureau and developed a close personal relationship with the emperor, based on a shared interest in mathematics and astronomy.

The large globe, telescope, and the ecliptic armillary sphere on the dragon-shaped base represent actual objects made by the Chinese after European designs. The originals survive today in the observatory in Beijing.

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