Portrait of a nobleman with his consort 夫婦像 - ROM2012_13049_30


Portrait of a nobleman with his consort 夫婦像

Maker: Unknown artist
Medium:Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk
Geography: China
Date: 18th century
Period: Qing dynasty
Ht. 113 x Wt. 74.5 cm
Object number: 921.1.153
Credit Line: The George Crofts Collection
Not on view

This couple is protrayed in the memorial hall of a family shrine. Donning court dress, both husband and wife sit squarely in round-back folding armchairs. Their lifelike faces seem to exude contentment. The couple looks young, suggesting that it was a portrait made from life. But the seated couple also appears in formal posture, manner, and costume typcially seen in an ancestor portrait. This portrait was likely commissioned with the future function of serving as ancestor portraits in mind--that is the portrait used in ritual of ancestor worship.  

All pictorial elements surrounding the sitters are symbolic of traditionally cherished aspirations. The blossoming camellia, chrysanthemum, and peony signify wealth (huakai fugui). The vase with a crackle glaze conveys the wish for personal safety throughout the years (suisui ping’an). The three round tangerines stand for the top places in the tripartite civil-service examination (sanyuan). The Buddha’s fingers citrons and the ruyi sceptre imply the attainment of happiness and longevity as well as wish fulfillment (fushou ruyi). The idea of longevity is also implicit in the tall mountains depicted in the landscape hung on the back wall and the bamboo seen through the circular window. This same idea is continued with the pines, cranes, and deer depicted in front of the hall. The pairing of these motifs further connotes conjugal harmony.

All these symbolic undertones may be interpreted as the benefits of good fortune the nobleman and his consort have enjoyed during their lives, or what they wish for their descendants to enjoy.

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