Paris: Denys Thierry, 1683. unbound. View. Copper plate engraving with hand coloring. Image measures 7 x 4". Sheet measures 8.25" x 5.5"
Published in 1683, this depiction of a Chinese funeral procession dates to the early period of western contact with China, when Chinese customs were of great interest to European emissaries. In the image, a long line of men on horseback snakes from the foreground to the background toward a large hill, likely a burial mound. At center is a group of pallbearers carrying the coffin on a bamboo litter shielded by a canopy. As was custom, this arrangement often included an empty chair for the spirit of the deceased to occupy. A group of men off to the side of the coffin are possibly throwing firecrackers in an effort to ward off harmful ghosts. The image is finely colored, with yellows in the foreground giving way to blues in the background as to accentuate the breadth of the landscape. Written above the image is the heading "De L'Asie. Figure XXII." The view appeared in the French edition of Manesson-Mallet's "Description de L'Univers." It is in good condition with clean edges. French text on verso. Allain Manesson-Mallet (1630-1706) advanced from his position of musket bearer under Louis XIV to eventually occupy the position of "maitre de mathematiques" to the French King. He was the author and engraver of "Description de L'Univers," a five-volume survey of the world that included maps of the ancient and modern world, star maps, illustrations of flora and fauna, and information on the customs, religion and government of the many nations included in the text. At the time, the text was the largest and most comprehensive work of its kind ever published. Intended to entertain its readers, Mallet's "Description" was a time capsule of the 17th-century world that captured and displayed it in all its splendor.