Portrait of Oboi (died 1669)

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, mid-18th to early 20th century
Ink and color on silk
H x W (painting): 193.7 x 125 cm (76 1/4 x 49 3/16 in) H x W (overall without jiku): 290 x 152.7 cm (114 3/16 x 60 1/8 in) W (with jiku): 165.1 cm (65 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), regent, WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

A powerful official, Oboi served for eight years early in the Kangxi reign (1662-1722) as a regent for the child emperor. His domineering actions provoked opposition at court, leading to his arrest in 1669 and his death in prison shortly thereafter. In 1713, the same emperor who had purged Oboi posthumously rehabilitated him to commemorate his battlefield exploits during the Manchu conquest of China that led to the founding of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).

This portrait incorporates all the conventions linked with ancestor portraits, yet it still conveys Oboi's fierce personality. (Most ancestor portraits depict the sitter with a placid, otherworldly demeanor.) The photorealism of the face suggests that this portrait was painted in the late nineteenth century, but exactly why his descendants commissioned the image at that late date is unclear.

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. .
  • China: The Three Emperors, 1662-1795. Exh. cat. London. fig. 5.
  • Jan Stuart. Calling Back the Ancestor's Shadow: Chinese Ritual and Commemorative Portraits. vol. XLIII no. 3. p. 10, fig. 5.
  • The Secret of the Joseon Portraits. Exh. cat. Korea. cat. 9, p. 21.
  • Scientific Studies of Pigments in Chinese Paintings. Washington, DC. p. 45, fig. 3.4.
  • Jan Stuart, Evelyn S. Rawski. Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits. Exh. cat. Washington and Stanford. p. 98, fig. 4.3.
  • Jean M. Borgatti. Constructed Identities: Portraiture in World Art. Amsterdam, 2008. p. 312.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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