Ancestor Portrait of an Elderly Woman 祖先像 - ROM2012_13049_1


Ancestor Portrait of an Elderly Woman 祖先像

Maker: Unknown artist
Medium:Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk
Geography: China
Date: 19 cent.
Period: Qing dynasty, 1644–1911
Ht 172.5 x Wt 96.5 cm
Object number: 921.1.139
Credit Line: The George Crofts Collection
On view
Gallery Location:The Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume
DescriptionThis stern-looking woman is depicted in elaborately decorated garb comprised of a jacket (ao), vest (xiapei), cloud collar (yunjian), and pleated skirt. The egret ornamenting the square rank badge on the front of her vest signifies that she was the wife of a sixth-rank civil official. When displayed on commemorative occasions, this portrait would have been paired with her husband’s. Her facial features are defined with fine lines, with subtle shading applied to the cheeks, around the eyes, nose, and mouth to describe slackened skin and protruding bones. Yet this face tells more. It is painted on paper and pasted on the silk ground of the portrait. This unusual feature testifies to a common practice: studios specializing in ancestor portraits normally kept a supply of works painted with formally clothed bodies of seated figures. Order for a portrait could be done speedily. The artist visited the gravely ill (or recently deceased) person and made a sketch of the person’s face. Back in the studio, the artist would prepare a detailed head portrait, putting it together with a suitable painting to complete a full portrait. The joining of a painted face to a clothed body, however, did not always produce a happy result. As this work demonstrates, the rather thin face is out of proportion with the voluminously clothed body.
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