Portrait of an Imperial Lady

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 18th-19th century
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 204.1 x 156.2 cm (80 3/8 x 61 1/2 in) H x W (overall): 442.5 x 208.5 cm (174 3/16 x 82 1/16 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, dragon, flower, portrait, Pritzlaff collection, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), woman, WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

The subject of this portrait is unknown, but her elaborate ornaments, including phoenixes worked in pearls on her headdress, hint at imperial connections. Only high-ranking court women wore five-phoenix ornaments on their headdress. Commoners, however, were allowed to imitate this custom for their wedding outfits. Thus, ancestor portraits of commoners often depict regal headdresses, but these portraits are never large and lavish like this one of a woman with legitimate imperial connections.

This portrait is intriguingly similar to Portrait of Daisan (see S1991.74). The same lacquer chairs appear in each portrait, and the similar size and choice of materials for the paintings' mountings, as well as the identical painting style, make it seem the two may have been painted in the same workshop, or they may have been part of a family set, despite their different carpet patterns.

Published References
  • Jan Stuart. Calling Back the Ancestor's Shadow: Chinese Ritual and Commemorative Portraits. vol. XLIII no. 3. p. 10, fig. 6.
  • Jan Stuart, Evelyn S. Rawski. Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits. Exh. cat. Washington and Stanford. p. 139, fig. 5.14.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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