Detail from Procession d'une nouvelle Mariée qui se rend chez son Mari... (Procession of a newlywed who comes to the home of her husband) by Jakob van der Schley, ca. 1749. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
The setting is China. A long procession winds its way through the countryside in a ceremony to bring a new bride to her husband. A herald approaches the door of the husband at the lower right to announce her arrival. Musicians playing many instruments fill the foreground. The bride is not visible. She is apparently in an elaborate sedan chair - a large pavilion hung with tapestries - which is carried by porters in the middle distance. The procession continues far into the distance over a curved bridge above a stream that runs through the center of the composition. Among the musical instruments represented here, from the left under the umbrella, are: a stringed instrument played with a bow; a dizi, a type of Chinese flute; a shawm; a stringed instrument played with the fingers; a drum; and, a curved trumpet.
This illustration (in its uncolored state) comes from a 25-volume book by the Abbé Prévost, Histoire générale des voyages.... This etching (uncolored) appears in volume 7, facing page 309, but the text describing this scene appears in volume 8 on page 26, and is part of a longer passage on Chinese marriage traditions. Volume 7, dated 1749, is entitled Voyages dans L'Asie. Livre Premier. Voyages dans L'Empire de Chine. Volume 8, also dated 1749, is a continuation of Volume 7, and is subtitled Suite du Livre Second. Description de la Chine, contenant la Geographie, et l'Histoire civile et naturelle du pays. The section on marriage is in Chapter II, part IV, "Mariages des Chinois," on pages 25 to 31. The text is in French and the wedding day is described thus:
The day of the wedding, the girl is placed in an ornate ceremonial sedan chair and is followed by those who carry her dowry. This is ordinarily [among the common people] a certain quantity of furniture that her father has given her, with her wedding clothes, which are locked in chests. A cortege of hired men accompanies her with torches in their hands, even in midday. Her sedan is preceded by pipers, hautbois players and drummers, and is followed by all the relatives and friends of her family. A trusted household servant keeps the key to the sedan and delivers it only to the husband, who awaits his bride at the door of his home. As soon as she has arrived, he receives the key from the servant and, hurrying to open the sedan, he then judges his good or his bad fortune.... As soon as the girl leaves her sedan, she walks at the side of her husband to the assembly room, where she begins with four bows of reverence which she directs to the 'Tyeu.' She directs four other bows to the relatives of her husband; after which she is placed into the hands of the women organizing the fête, with whom she passes the rest of the day in rejoicings, while her husband entertains the men in another room.
See the uncolored etching of this same print, 616/U, as well as images of musical instruments from Africa from volume 5 in Histoire générale des voyages, 624/Z and 625/Z.
About the Artist
Jakob van der Schley, or van Schley, draughtsman and engraver, 1715-1779
Jakob van der Schley, or van Schley, was a Dutch artist who was born in Amsterdam in 1715, according to Bénézit. He died in the same city in 1779. He was a student of Bernard Picart (1673-1733), whose style he imitated. According to Bénézit, van der Schley engraved mostly portraits as well as illustrations for La Vie de Marianne by Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux (1688-1763) which was published in The Hague from 1735 to 1747. Van der Schley also engraved the frontispieces for a 15-volume edition of the complete works of Pierre de Brantôme (1540-1614), Oeuvres du seigneur de Brantôme, published in The Hague in 1740, a copy of which is in the Folger Shakespeare Library, call number 222-635q. There is very little biographical information on Jakob van der Schley in Bénézit or other standard sources on artists. Most of the plates in the Hague edition of Prévost's Histoire générale des voyages (The Hague: P. de Hondt, 1747-1780) carry van der Schley's signature thus, his engravings and etchings for this publication must have been a significant part of his oeuvre.
- Abbé Prévost, Histoire générale des voyages..., published in The Hague by P. de Hondt, 1747-1780. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. LC call number: G160.P94 Pre-1801 Collection. Another set is in the Mariner's Museum Library, Newport News, Virginia, call number: G160.P9 rare. Cathy Williamson, Public Services Librarian at the Mariner's Museum, graciously searched these volumes and provided the above volume and page references, 19 September 2005. [back to article]