Portrait of the Sixth Prince Yi

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, Guangxu reign, 1905
Ink and color on silk
H x W (painting): 185.3 x 119.7 cm (72 15/16 x 47 1/8 in) H x W (overall): 249 x 165 cm (98 1/16 x 64 15/16 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, Guangxu reign (1875 - 1908), man, portrait, prince, Pritzlaff collection, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable

This painting's astonishing realism for the face seems almost photographic, especially when compared to the other portraits in the set (S1991.84 and S1991.102). This portrait and S1991.84 carry a note on the title slip stating,  "recopied posthumous portraits." Ancestor portraits were often created after the subject's death, and they were frequently copied. Even so, they could still seem highly realistic, as if they had been painted from actual observation.

The sixth Prince Yi was Zaiyuan (1816-1861), who lived at a time when photography was becoming known to the Chinese. A photograph of him may have served as a model for this painting, but any photograph from the mid-nineteenth century would not have been as clear and detailed as this painter's work. Why the artist made special efforts to create this lifelike image for just one portrait in a set is unclear.

Published References
  • Jan Stuart. Calling Back the Ancestor's Shadow: Chinese Ritual and Commemorative Portraits. vol. XLIII no. 3. p. 14, fig. 13.
  • Jan Stuart, Evelyn S. Rawski. Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits. Exh. cat. Washington and Stanford. p. 102, fig. 4.6.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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