Hongtaiji, Emperor Taizong (1592–1643), Meditating with a Buddhist Rosary

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 18th-19th century
Ink and color on silk
H x W (painting): 165.2 x 97.1 cm (65 1/16 x 38 1/4 in) H x W (overall): 281 x 124 cm (110 5/8 x 48 13/16 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, portrait, Pritzlaff collection, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

Hongtaiji, who is also known as Taizong (a posthumous designation for the second ruler in a dynastic line), never sat on the imperial throne in Peking (modern-day Beijing), but he and his father were written about in Qing dynasty (1644-1911) histories as if they had been emperors. Despite Hongtaiji's historical importance, few portraits of him exist, so it is difficult to confirm the identification given in the label on this portrait. Assuming that it truly represents Hongtaiji, the portrait must have been executed long after his death, but posthumous portraits are not uncommon in China. Judging from his informal pose seated on a kang (the built-in, heated platform seen here), this portrait was never intended for ritual veneration.

This pose would seem to have held some special cultural importance. Several emperors of the Qing dynasty chose to have themselves painted in an identical manner sitting on a cushioned <i>kang</i> and fingering a Buddhist rosary. Perhaps viewers were intended to see the rulers, who were known for their martial skills, in a spiritual and contemplative light. Here, Hongtaiji is dressed in a summer court hat and informal robes topped by a blue surcoat with an imperial dragon roundel on the chest (the roundel is difficult to see).

Published References
  • Jan Stuart, Evelyn S. Rawski. Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits. Exh. cat. Washington and Stanford. p. 119, fig. 5.1.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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