A Pair of Chinese Ancestral Portraits, Seated Official and his Wife

Gouache on paper

China, Qing Dynasty, late 18th/early 19th century

Reference#: T1451

Height: 54 ¾ inches (139.1 cm.)
Length: 26 ¾ inches (68 cm.)

Mid-Atlantic Museum; Gift from Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Glasgow, Richmond, VA

Immobile “Realities”, 1981.

Popular throughout Chinese history, ancestor portraits or works of art commissioned to worship ancestors served a ritual purpose and were displayed only during specific days or holidays, Chinese New Year being the primary day of remembrance. Worshippers feared that an inaccurate representation of their ancestor would “ensure that the ritual would be efficacious.” As a result, strict importance was placed on the exactitude of the facial features. Artists made no attempts to idealize the face. In contrast to the exacting details of the face, the body was generally schematically designed, serving more as a platform to display clothing and social standing resulting in the more two-dimensional appearance of the body. The use of the tiger pelt to adorn a chair was often associated with high ranking men; women typically sat upon chairs adorned with silk embroidered textiles.

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