1898 Harry Fenn Original Manuscript View of the Forbidden City, Beijing (Peking) for Harper's Weekly

Coal Hill [Beijing Forbidden City View]

1898 Harry Fenn Original Manuscript View of the Forbidden City, Beijing (Peking) for Harper's Weekly


One of a kind original pen and ink cover art for Harper's Weekly illustrating the Forbidden City.

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Coal Hill [Beijing Forbidden City View]
  1898 (dated)    11.5 x 9.8 in (29.21 x 24.892 cm)


A remarkable discovery. This 1898 view of Beijing or Peking's Forbidden City is the original pen and ink cover art for the October 22, 1898 edition of Harper's Weekly, which is itself included with this piece. The view was drawn by Harry Fenn from, purportedly, the then 'only photograph known to have been taken of the prohibited enclosure.' The view is presented from a highpoint in the Imperial City (walled enclosure surrounding the Forbidden City) looking northwest into the Forbidden City towards Coal Hill, which appears in the distance and is the title of this view. Presumably this view is the first contemporaneous illustrated depiction of the Forbidden City to appear in any western publication since the Anglo-French occupation in 1860.

This illustration, embellished with a profile bust of the progressive Guangxu (Kuang-hsu)Emperor graced the cover of the October 22, 1898 edition of Harper's Weekly. Harpers ran a short article on the Guangxu (Kuang-hsu) Emperor's 'Hundred Days Reform' and the Dowager Empress Cixi's reactionary 1898 coup d'etat, which effectively ended the reform and placed the young emperor under a lifelong house arrest.

The artist, Harry Fenn (1845-1911) was an English-born American illustrator and a proponent of the Hudson River School. Fenn was born in Surrey, England, and after a brief American tour, purportedly to visit Niagara Falls, he permanently relocated to the United States. Settling in Montclair, New Jersey, in 1865, Fenn commenced work as an engraver, completing various engravings for 'Picturesque' books, including William Cullen Bryant's 1872 Picturesque America. Most of Fenn's work was intended for reproduction in various publications, including, as we see here, Harper's Weekly.


Harper's Weekly (1825 - 1916), subtitled "A Journal of Civilization" was a weekly political magazine and news journal published out of New York City. The Harper brothers, James, John, Joseph and Fletcher, began publishing in 1825. Inspired by the London Illustrated News, they created Harper's Weekly in 1857. The important weekly journal witnessed some of the most important moments in history from the American Civil War, to the serialized publishing of Dickens novels, to the inventions of the modern Santa Clause by illustrator Thomas Nast. Harpers continued to publish until 1916. The Harper name is still alive in the magazine business to this day.


Very good. Attached to original Harper's Weekly presentation board. Accompanied by Harper's Weekly issues that that features it as cover art.