Portrait of Tsereng (d. 1750)

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1644-1911
Medium
Ink and colors on silk
Dimensions
H x W (painting): 144 x 83 cm (56 11/16 x 32 11/16 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Purchase — Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program and partial gift of Richard G. Pritzlaff
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S1991.62
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Hanging scroll

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

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

ca.1949 to 1959
Wu Ping-Chung (dates unknown and Chinese characters for the name unknown) inherited ownership upon Wu Laixi's death around 1949 [2]

1959 to 1985
Richard G. Pritzlaff (1902-1997) by transfer of ownership from Wu Ping-Chung on June 15, 1959 [3]

1985 to 1987
H. Ross Perot (1930-2019) purchased from Richard G. Pritzlaff in 1985 [4]

1987 to 1991
Richard G. Pritzlaff purchased from H. Ross Perot in 1987 [5]

From 1991
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery acquired through partial gift and partial purchase from Richard G. Pritzlaff in 1991 [6]

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. 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 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.

[4] 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.

[5] See note 4.

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

Previous Owner(s)

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

Label

Married to one of the daughters of the Kangzi emperor (reigned 1662-1722), Tsereng concluded a border treaty between the Qing empire and Russia. The tilt of his hat is inexplicable; the exceedingly long feet are also anomalous. Many sketch lines, such as the one for a peacock feather near the cap, are visible. This portrait may have been a rejected sketch.

Published References
  • China: The Three Emperors, 1662-1795. Exh. cat. London. fig. 10.
  • Jan Stuart, Evelyn S. Rawski. Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits. Exh. cat. Washington and Stanford. p. 193, fig. 8.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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