Exotic Medicine: Illustrating a Chinese Musk Deer for the Philosophical Transactions
The musk deer exists in several species across the Himalayas, the Tibetan plateau, northern China and Siberia. It suddenly became the subject of renewed scientific interest after a pair of letters read at the Royal Society in London in December 1744 presented successful medical applications of musk. A painting of a musk deer by Ignatius Sichelbarth, a Czech Jesuit serving the Portuguese mission in Beijing as a court painter to the Qianlong emperor and known for his ability to paint quadrupeds in the European manner, included in a letter to the secretary of the Society and engraved for publication in its Philosophical Transactions in 1751, marks a moment where the histories of Chinese painting and European scientific illustration intersect with medicine and sinology in the context of the Royal Society as a globalized centre for art and science. The original painting is now in the Menges Museum in Slovenia.