An attractive view of Nanjing, shown as it appeared during the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, based on the drawings of the German adventurer Johann (Jan) Nieuhof, who was in the employ of the Dutch East India Company (the VOC).
This fine view captures Nanjing from the countryside, showing the city as it rises above its massive ancient walls. The view was printed in The Hague by Jakob van der Schley as part of Prevost's Histoire General des Voyages.
When Nieuhof visited Nanjing in the 1650s, the city had just lost its status as a capital of the Qing Dynasty. This role was now to be occupied solely by Beijing, as it had been during the recently fallen Ming Dynasty (Beijing means 'Northern Capital).
Johannes Nieuhof (1618-72) was a German-born diplomat and adventurer in the service of the VOC, 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, Nieuhof made an epic 2,400-mile trek through China, from Guangdong to Beijing.
During his Chinese expedition, he made numerous drawings of the sites he encountered, including the port town of Chau Cheu Fu in the southern province of Guandong, which was the basis for the present print. Nieuhof's important written account, along with engravings of his drawings, was first published as Legatio batavica ad magnum Tartariæ chamum Sungteium, modernum Sinæ imperatorem (Amsterdam, 1668). The present view was published as part of a subsequent Dutch-language edition of his work, Het Gezantschap der Neêrlandtsche Oost-Indische Compagnie, aan den grooten Tartarischen Cham, den tegenwoordigen Keizer van China... (Amsterdam, 1749). His illustrations proved to be highly influential, as they did much to spawn the genre of chinoiserie in European art and design.
Jakob van der Schley was a skilled draftsman and engraver who operated out of Amsterdam and had strong ties with the Hague. He was trained by Bernard Picart and his style resembles that of the elder man. Van der Schely was known for intricately engraved portraits and frontispieces. He signed most of the plates used in the Hague edition of the Abbe Prevost's Histoire generale des voyages.