Posthumous Portrait of Yu Chenglong (1617-1684)

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1706-19th century
Medium
Ink and color on paper
Dimensions
H x W (image): 167.7 x 102 cm (66 x 40 3/16 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Purchase — Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S1997.39
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Hanging scroll

Keywords
China, portrait, 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) 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 1997
Richard G. Pritzlaff purchased from H. Ross Perot in 1987 [5]

1997
Estate of Richard G. Pritzlaff, upon the death of Richard G. Pritzlaff on February 6, 1997 [6]

From 1997
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery purchased from the Estate of Richard G. Pritzlaff [7]

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 for the remainder of Wu's life. This portrait was one of those sold in 1937, according to conversation between Jan Stuart and Richard Pritzlaff in 1990 held at Pritzlaff's New Mexican Ranch. See also Jan Stuart & Evelyn S. Rawski, Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits (Stanford & Washington: Stanford University Press with Smithsonian Institution, 2001), 22.

[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. While Pritzlaff arranged for the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery to acquire most of his collection through partial gift and partial purchase in 1991, he kept this painting until he died.

[6] For the purchase agreement, see accession file.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

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

Label

Judging by the date of 1706 in the inscription above the portrait, this painting may have been created to commemorate Yu Chenglong's posthumous receipt of an imperial promotion. The style in which the face was rendered, however, suggests that this painting was actually produced in the nineteenth century, and the inscription may have been either copied from an earlier portrait or taken from it and remounted above this painting. Yu is depicted with a red nose. Was this a sign that he was fond of drinking, a fact cited in his biography? The treatment of Yu's nose stands out as an example of the realistic touches often found in Chinese portraits, whether posthumously executed or not.

Published References
  • Jan Stuart, Evelyn S. Rawski. Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits. Exh. cat. Washington and Stanford. p. 109, fig. 4.13.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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