Unidentified Nobleman in Front of a Table

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 18th-19th century
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 229.7 x 162.6 cm (90 7/16 x 64 in) H x W (overall): 352.5 x 193.5 cm (138 3/4 x 76 3/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program and partial gift of Richard G. Pritzlaff
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

China, courtier, portrait, Pritzlaff collection, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable

From his luxurious fur-trimmed chaofu (formal court robe) and the high-status finial of his hat to the tiger skin draped over his lacquered chair, this unidentified courtier proclaims his eminent position in the court hierarchy. Arranged on the table behind him are other emblems of his elite social position: books, brush, and water container to his right, and incense burner, antique bronze vase with peacock feathers, and accoutrements to his left. The vase also holds a frond of a "magic" fungus that symbolized longevity, and the jeweled ruyi scepter standing on end in the brush pot to his right signifies good wishes. These sentiments are appropriate for either an ancestor portrait or a commemorative lifetime portrait, but the latter seems the more likely function of this image. Ancestor portraits do not usually have such elaborately painted room interiors.

Published References
  • Jan Stuart. Calling Back the Ancestor's Shadow: Chinese Ritual and Commemorative Portraits. vol. XLIII no. 3. p. 12, fig. 9.
  • Jan Stuart, Evelyn S. Rawski. Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits. Exh. cat. Washington and Stanford. p. 133, fig. 5.8.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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