Yongzhong (1735-1793) or his descendants commissioned from a professional artist 
To ca. 1949
Wu Laixi 吳賴熙 (d. ca.1949-1950) method of acquisition unknown 
ca. 1949 to 1959
Wu Ping-Chung (dates unknown) inherited ownership upon Wu Laixi's death around 1949 
1959 to 1985
Richard G. Pritzlaff (1902-1997) by transfer of ownership from Wu Ping-Chung on June 15, 1959 
1985 to 1987
H. Ross Perot (1930-2019) purchased from Richard G. Pritzlaff in 1985 
1987 to 1991
Richard G. Pritzlaff re-purchased from H. Ross Perot in 1987 
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery acquired through partial gift and partial purchase from Richard G. Pritzlaff 
 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.
 Wu Laixi 吳賴熙 (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.
 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."
 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.
 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
 See note 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
This ancestor portrait of Prince Hongming and the one of his wife (see S1991.53) bear inscriptions in Chinese and Manchu (right and left, respectively) written by a devoted son. The texts are dated to 1767, the year of the prince's death. Most ancestor portraits were created around the time of the subject's death, and they were often painted as a matched pair, with the same carpet, chair, and brocade chair cover. Sometimes creation of a pair of ancestor portraits was delayed until both spouses had died, or two portraits were painted at once but the face of the still-living spouse was left blank. Also, the second portrait could have been painted much later with the setting copied from the first portrait.
Inscriptions are not always a firm guide for dating an ancestor portrait because many paintings were copied over the years, especially if they had become damaged. The strong highlights on the faces and clothing in this pair of portraits suggest they might have been painted in the second half of the nineteenth century rather than in 1767.
The prince wears semiformal, winter court dress. The dragon badge on his coat announces his court rank, and the open side vents reveal drawstring pouches and a white scarf hanging from his belt on both left and right. These are typical male costume accessories worn during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).
Museum conservators cleaned and remounted the portrait of Lady Wanyan (S1991.53) and this portrait of Hongming. The portrait of Prince Hongming had suffered great water damage, and its colors are now slightly lighter than those in the painting of his wife.
- Published References
- Hans Konig, Michael Franses. Glanz Der Himmelssohne Kaiserliche Teppiche Aus China 1400-1750: Exhibition in Köln, Museum fur Ostasiatische Kunst, October 15, 2005 - January 15, 2006. Exh. cat. Koln. .
- Jan Stuart. Calling Back the Ancestor's Shadow: Chinese Ritual and Commemorative Portraits. vol. XLIII no. 3. p. 8, fig. 1.
- Jan Stuart, Evelyn S. Rawski. Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits. Exh. cat. Washington and Stanford. p. 19, 27, fig. 3.
- Collection Area(s)
- Chinese Art
- Web Resources
- Google Cultural Institute
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