Portrait of Prince Hongming (1705--1767)

Detail of a pattern
Image 1 of 1

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At A Glance

  • Period

    1767 or later
  • Geography

  • Material

    Ink and color on silk
  • Dimension

    H x W (image): 200.8 x 115.4 cm (79 1/16 x 45 7/16 in)
  • Accession Number



Object Details

  • Sitter

    Hongming 愛新覺羅弘明 (1705-1767)
  • Previous custodian or owner

    Richard G. Pritzlaff (1902-1997)
    H. Ross Perot (1930-2019)
    Wu Ping-Chung
    Wu Laixi 吳賴熙 (died ca. 1950)
  • Provenance

    Yongzhong (1735-1793) or his descendants commissioned from a professional artist [1]
    To ca. 1949
    Wu Laixi ??? (d. ca.1949-1950) method of acquisition unknown [2]
    ca. 1949 to 1959
    Wu Ping-Chung (dates unknown) inherited ownership upon Wu Laixi's death around 1949 [3]
    1959 to 1985
    Richard G. Pritzlaff (1902-1997) by transfer of ownership from Wu Ping-Chung on June 15, 1959 [4]
    1985 to 1987
    H. Ross Perot (1930-2019) purchased from Richard G. Pritzlaff in 1985 [5]
    1987 to 1991
    Richard G. Pritzlaff re-purchased from H. Ross Perot in 1987 [6]
    From 1991
    The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery acquired through partial gift and partial purchase from Richard G. Pritzlaff [7]
    [1] See Chinese and Manchu-language inscription on painting. The inscription indicates that Yongzhong -- son of Hongming, Gon Qin beile (1705-1767) and Hongming's wife, Lady Wanyan -- commissioned this painting. However,
    if an ancestor portrait became damaged, a family member of a subsequent generation, might commission a close copy, including the original inscriptions, to replace it, and without necessarily identifying the painting as a copy. It is not possible to assert
    with complete certainty that this portrait dates to 1767 or is a later copy. For a discussion of multiple versions, recopied portraits, and problems of dating Chinese ancestor paintings, see Jan Stuart & Evelyn S. Rawski, Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits (Washington, DC and Stanford, CA: Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery with Stanford University Press, 2001), 104-111.
    [2] Wu Laixi ??? (alternate romanization: Wu Lai-hsi) was an antiquities dealer who often sold high-quality, sometimes imperial, objects sourced from Chinese nobles and elite persons, among other sources. Active in the 1930s and 1940s, Wu Laixi purchased portraits in China, reportedly at least at first for his personal collection, and later for resale; he took great pride in his collection, labeling himself as the first Chinese collector of Chinese ancestor portraits.
    In 1937, Wu sold portraits to the American, Richard G. Pritzlaff, who was visiting China. Pritzlaff and Wu remained in touch. In the 1940s, Wu worried about his financial security and the fate of his collection in China, where war with Japan and domestic turmoil threatened the security of private art collections. Wu wrote to Pritzlaff, asking if he could send portraits in exchange for money to survive. Between 1940 and 1948, Wu sent three shipments of portraits and other art objects to Pritzlaff's ranch in New Mexico. Wu intended for Pritzlaff to sell the majority of the art objects he sent, however, Pritzlaff did not want to disperse the collection, so he sent as much money as he could to Wu and retained the art. Pritzlaff reported that he "thought of himself as the owner of some paintings but wanted to be only a temporary custodian of others" and intended for Wu to one day be reunited with
    the entire collection. It remains unclear which portraits Pritzlaff believed he owned. See letters from Wu Laixi to Pritzlaff, September 4, 1940; June 27, 1941; June 17, 1947; and August 6, 1948, copies in accession file.
    [3] See note 2. Upon Wu's death, Pritzlaff contacted Wu's son, Wu Ping-Chung who lived in Taiwan; he declined to claim the collection but retained ownership rights until he transferred them to Pritzlaff in 1959. See the letter from Wu Ping-Chung addressed "To Whom it May Concern," June 15, 1959, witnessed by Major Thurman W. Oliver of the United States Army, copy in accession file. In the letter Wu declares, "I .... Hereby transfer, for remunerations received, my interest and rights inherited from my father, Mr. Wu Lai-hsi, deceased, in his collection of paintings, to Mr. Richard Pritzlaff of Sapello, New Mexico, U.S.A."
    [4] See note 3.
    Richard G. Pritzlaff was
    a rancher who initially raised cattle but then became a well-known breeder of Arabian horses, who also collected some Chinese art, mostly portrait paintings. When studying landscape architecture at University of California at Berkeley and then at Harvard, he developed an interest in China. He traveled there in 1937 and began collecting Chinese objects. For Pritzlaff's account of how he acquired his collection, see letter addressed "Dear Sir" from Pritzlaff, October12, 1988, copy in accession file.
    [5] H. Ross Perot was an American business magnate, billionaire, philanthropist and politician. He ran for president in 1992 and 1996, establishing the Reform Party. In 1985, Perot visited Pritzlaff's ranch to inspect his Arabian horses. After the visit, Perot unexpectedly approached Pritzlaff, proposing to purchase the collection of Chinese ancestor portraits and construct a museum in Texas to house them. In 1987, when it became clear that Perot had decided not to construct the museum, Pritzlaff bought back the collection. For specifics of this transaction, see letter from H. Ross Perot's daughter, Nancy P. Mulford to James Cahill, December 26, 1986 and September 11, 1987, copies in accession file. James Cahill (1926-2014), curator at Freer Gallery of Art from 1958--1965 and then faculty at University of California at Berkley, evaluated the collection when owned by Perot. For an account of Cahill's experiences, see http://jamescahill.info/the-writings-of-james-cahill/responses-a-reminiscences/167-45-my-day-with-ross-perotw
    [6] See note 5.
    [7] For the deed of gift and purchase arrangement, see accession file.
  • Origin

  • Credit Line

    Purchase — Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program and partial gift of Richard G. Pritzlaff
  • Type

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