Portrait of a Manchu Noblewoman

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, probably 19th century
Medium
Ink and color on silk
Dimensions
H x W (image): 190.9 x 100.4 cm (75 3/16 x 39 1/2 in) H x W (overall): 284.5 x 127 cm (112 x 50 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Purchase — Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program and partial gift of Richard G. Pritzlaff
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S1991.58
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Hanging scroll

Keywords
China, dragon, ocean, portrait, Pritzlaff collection, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), woman, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

To 1937
Wu Laixi 吳賴熙 (d. ca.1949-1950) reportedly acquired from decedents of noble Chinese families [1]

1937 to 1985
Richard G. Pritzlaff (1902-1997) purchased from Wu Laixi in 1937 [2]

1985 to 1987
H. Ross Perot (1930-2019) purchased from Richard G. Pritzlaff in 1985 [3]

1987 to 1991
Richard G. Pritzlaff purchased from H. Ross Perot in 1987 [4]

From 1991
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery acquired through partial gift and partial purchase from Richard G. Pritzlaff in 1991 [5]

Notes:

[1] Wu Laixi 吳賴熙 (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 for the remainder of Wu's life. This portrait was one of those sold in 1937, according to conversation between Jan Stuart and Richard Pritzlaff in 1990 held at Pritzlaff's New Mexican Ranch. See also Jan Stuart & Evelyn S. Rawski, Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits (Stanford & Washington: Stanford University Press with Smithsonian Institution, 2001), 22.

[2] See note 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.

[3] 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.

[4] See note 3.

[5] For the deed of gift and purchase arrangement, see accession file.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Wu Laixi died ca. 1950
Richard G. Pritzlaff 1902 - 1997
H. Ross Perot 1930 - 2019

Published References
  • Jan Stuart, Evelyn S. Rawski. Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits. Exh. cat. Washington and Stanford. p. 193, fig. 6.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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