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Rosalien van der Poel. Travels in Tartary: Decoding Ten Export Winter Landscapes

The Chinese export paintings collection of the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden includes ten winter views in Tartary painted on canvas. That these ten paintings have never before been studied as a group has inspired the present author to conduct research into their origins, the findings of which are presented in this article.

Seven of the ‘winter views in Tartary’ in the Leiden museum were made on commission for the Hague lawyer and collector Jean Theodore Royer (1737-1807) and are dated to before 1807. While assembling his Chinese collection, Royer was assisted by Ulrich Gualtherus Hemmingson (1741-99), who worked for the VOC in Canton from 1765 to 1790. Hemmingson or his intermediaries purchased items directly from the workshops in Canton. Part of the Royer Collection was also purchased in the Netherlands, where a huge variety of Asian objects was available. While it is not known how Royer came to acquire the ‘winter views’, that he also wanted a set of winter landscapes for his Chinese research collection is undisputed. In 1816, six of the paintings were rehoused in the Royal Cabinet of Rarities, where the director, Reinier Pieter van de Kasteele (1767-1845), titled them ‘Six winter views in Tartary painted on canvas’. The seventh view was added later. The Guide to Viewing the Royal Cabinet of Rarities (Handleiding tot de bezigtiging van het Koninklijk Kabinet van Zeldzaamheden) provides a schematic and geographical classification of the Cabinet (van de Kasteele, 1824). Here, too, the six winter landscapes are specifically mentioned. In 1883, the paintings were relocated to the National Ethnographic Museum, now the National Museum of Ethnology, in Leiden. The other three paintings were acquired, probably between 1824 and 1860, from the collection of the Royal Cabinet of Rarities, established in 1816 by King Willem I (1772-1843), on the basis of the Royer Bequest of 1814, which included 3,000 Chinese and Japanese objects. 
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