Embroidery Depicting the Eight Immortals

Detail of a pattern
Image 1 of 1
IIIF

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At A Glance

  • Period

    1644-1911
  • Geography

    China
  • Material

    Silk, gold-wrapped threads, horsehair, cotton
  • Dimension

    H x W: 111 x 461 cm (43 11/16 x 181 1/2 in)
  • Accession Number

    S1991.67
  • EDAN ID

    edanmdm:fsg_S1991.67

Object Details

  • Provenance

    Possibly to no later than 1948
    Wu Laixi ??? (d. ca.1949-1950) reportedly acquired from decedents of noble Chinese families [1]
    Possibly ca.1949 to 1959 see previous comment
    Wu Ping-Chung (dates unknown) inherited ownership upon Wu Laixi's death around 1949 [2]
    To 1991
    Richard G. Pritzlaff (1902-1997), mode of acquisition unknown [3]
    From 1991
    The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery acquired through partial gift and partial purchase from Richard G. Pritzlaff [4]
    Notes:
    [1] Wu Laixi ??? (alternate romanization: Wu Lai-hsi) was an antiquities dealer who often sold high-quality, imperial goods sourced from Chinese nobles, among other sources. Active in the 1930s and 1940s, Wu Laixi purchased portraits in China, reportedly for his personal collection and for resale; he took great pride in his collection, labeling himself as the first 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 collect 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.
    [2] See note 1. 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."
    [3] See notes 1 & 2. Richard G. Pritzlaff was a collector of Chinese art and a rancher who initially raised cattle but then became a well-known breeder of Arabian horses. 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. In theory it is possible, however, that Pritzlaff purchased it from another source but there is no information he sought out portraits from dealers other than Wu Laixi.
    [4] For the deed of gift and purchase arrangement, see accession file.
  • Collection

    National Museum of Asian Art Collection
  • Previous custodian or owner

    Richard G. Pritzlaff (1902-1997)
    Wu Ping-Chung
    Wu Laixi 吳賴熙 (died ca. 1950)
  • Origin

    China
  • Credit Line

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

    Costume and Textile
  • Restrictions and Rights

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