|Method||Copper engraving with hand colouring|
|Published||[n.d. Paris, 1749-1756]|
|Dimensions||Image 177 x 263 mm, Plate 185 x 275 mm, Sheet 258 x 360 mm|
A hand coloured view of Peking from an edition Description de la Chine, part of Prévost's monumental 'l'Histoire Géneral des Voyages.'
The Histoire Géneral des Voyages was a monumental eighteenth century general history divided according to geographic region. The original volumes were written by Antoine François Prévost d'Exiles, a French author, novelist, theologian, natural historian, and a priest of the Jesuit and Benedictine orders, but continued by numerous other authors after Prévost's death. The earliest books mostly deal with the Far East and South-East Asia, providing a general history of their regions, kingdoms, customs, culture, costumes, natural phenomena and religious beliefs. Much of Prévost's information is derived from the reports of Jesuit missionaries, Portuguese merchants, and famous explorers, from Marco Polo to Sir Francis Drake. Although written in French, the popularity of the Histoire among Dutch audiences meant that many of the illustrative plates and maps published to accompany the work were either re-engraved or subtitled in Dutch by the engraver Jakob van der Schley. Prévost himself had travelled widely throughout the Netherlands, launching his literary career in Amsterdam and the Hague after fleeing the Benedictines in France. Prevost's work on China, and indeed many of van der Schley's plates, owe a great debt to Johan Nieuhoff (1618-1672) , a Dutch traveller who explored much of China, India, and Brazil while in the employ of the Dutch East India Company. Nieuhoff wrote extensively, with a particular focus on China, for his memoirs, and his numerous drawings of Chinese places and people were much copied by later engravers for numerous works of Chinese interest. Nieuhoff's own book became a major source of inspiration for eighteenth century chinoiserie, and are amongst the first western illustrations to depict the Chinese people in a manner which was based upon personal observation rather than the tradition of oriental fantasy.