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 and Brothers (1917 – Present) is New York based American printing publishing firm founded in 1817 by James Harper and his brother John Harper as J. and J. Harper (1817-1833). Their younger brothers Joseph Wesley Harper and Fletcher Harper joined the company around 1926 prompting the 1833 imprint change to Harper and Brothers (1833 – 1962). The firm published countless books, magazines, prints, maps, and more. They began publishing a monthly magazine, Harper's Monthly in 1850. The success of Harper's Monthly led to the introduction of a popular weekly illustrated journal, Harper's Weekly published from 1857 - 1916. They later introduced Harper's Bazar (1867) and Harper's Young People (1879). From about 1899 the business went through a series of permutations selling off some assets and developing others. The company merged with Row, Peters and Company inn 1962, rebranding itself as Harper and Row (1962 – 1990), which was acquired by Marshall Pickering in 1988. It was acquired by Rupert Mordoch (News Corp) and merged with William Collins and Sons in 1990 to form HaprerCollins (1990 – Present), the imprint under which it still publishes. Their original offices were at 331 Franklin Street, roughly below today's Manhattan Bridge. Today they have many offices and are one of the world's largest publishing companies and one of the 'Big Five' English-language publishers.
Very good. Attached to original Harper's Weekly presentation board. Accompanied by Harper's Weekly issues that that features it as cover art.