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Fine early view of Kuchin, a river port near Beijing, from Schenk's Hectamopolis.

This fine view shows the important port of Kuchin on the Gui River, located between Beijing and Tianjin. Kuchin was an important trans-shipment port in Northern China, and was linked to the Great Canal. The view shows the prosperous-looking town, largely built of brick, in the background, while merchant ships are moored in the river. A pastoral scene of peasants and wagons occupies the river bank to the right. Schenk adapted it from a view by Dutch diplomat Johannes Nieuhoff, who visited Kuchin in the 1650s.

Peter Schenck (1660 - 1713) was born in Elberfeld, Germany, but moved to Amsterdam as a young man. In 1683, he acquired the legendary mapmaking firm of Jan Jansson, and over the next generation published a large number of maps, views and composite atlases.

Johannes Nieuhoff (1618-72) was a Dutch diplomat and adventurer, who was perhaps the most widely traveled individual of the seventeenth-century. His experiences included important expeditions to various locations in Brazil, Africa, India, Indonesia, and China. From 1655-57, Nieuhoff made an epic 2,400 trek through China, from Canton to Beijing.

During his Chinese expedition Nieuhoff made numerous drawings of the sites he encountered, which were included in his important work, Legatio batavica ad magnum Tartariæ chamum Sungteium, modernum Sinæ imperatorem (Amsterdam, 1668). His illustrations proved to be highly influential, and they did much to spawn the genre of chinoiserie in European art and design.

Peter Schenk Biography

Peter Schenk the Elder (1660-1711) moved to Amsterdam in 1675 and began to learn the art of mezzotint. In 1694 he bought some of the copperplate stock of the mapmaker Johannes Janssonius, which allowed him to specialize in the engraving and printing of maps and prints. He split his time between his Amsterdam shop and Leipzig and also sold a considerable volume of materials to London.

Peter Schenk the Elder had three sons. Peter the Younger carried on his father’s business in Leipzig while the other two, Leonard and Jan, worked in Amsterdam. Leonard engraved several maps and also carried on his father’s relationship with engraving plates for the Amsterdam edition of the Histoire de l'Académie Royale des Sciences.