Large Qing Royal Ancestral Portrait

19th Century portrait painted on raw silk with ink colors, gold powder; has hanging rods on top and bottom; aged patina; size:  7′ tall, 66″ wide.

This portrait shows a royal couple sitting for a formal portrait.  The official hat-dress and collar on the gentleman, and the crown on the lady, together with the mandarin square on their ropes stitched with a crane standing on some rock jutting from turbulent waves, incorporating ‘auspicious’ emblems and clouds, signify this couple has a first rank official status.  They sit on armchairs draped with embroidered seat covers, with feet resting on ‘foot-rests’ with an apron of beaded carvings of cloud-heads and curved yoke ends in up-turned ‘ruyi’ motifs.  The ‘ruyi’ is a wish-granting scepter which resembles the ‘lingzhi’ fungus of immortality.  In the background is shown an incense burner and flowers arranged in porcelain vases.

A formal portrait like this was always painted by a specially trained court portrait painter, with every feature of the subject correctly sized.  What is extra special about this one is that each couple’s face was directly painted on the fabric, instead of as often the case, the face painted on rice paper first and then imposed on facial space on the fabric so as not to make mistakes and ruin the whole portrait.  The gold on the painting is actual gold power.  This is obviously an important portrait, commissioned to be done for an important couple, a royal couple.

This ancient portrait shows frayed edges on border fabric lining.  Wooden rods inserted into the upper and lower ends, and its huge size, make it most likely the portrait was meant to be hung in a palace.  This portrait is very rare today because not many royal portraits survived The Chinese Cultural Revolution when any dynastic painted figures were destroyed.

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