Ancestor Portrait, Male Official

Accession Number

Ancestor Portrait, Male Official


Artist Nationality
Chinese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
hanging scroll, ink and color on paper

53 3/4 in. x 26 in. ( 136.5 cm x 66 cm )

Credit Line
Gift of Otto Au

Label copy
Ancestral portrait, male official
Qing dynasty (1644–1912)
Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper
Gift of Otto Au, 1951/2.29

For a viewer of the time, this painting and those like it
offered a set of clues about the social identity and position
of the person depicted. The topcoat, made from blue-black
satin and edged with white fur, was worn by fourth- through
ninth-rank civil officials. The type of bird on the coat’s
rank badge is unusually difficult to determine since its tail
feathers are ambiguous. But paired with details like the hat’s
gold finial, this man’s status as a ninth-rank civil official
(the lowest) with a paradise flycatcher rank badge becomes
clear. While the ambiguity could be the fault of the painter,
some badges were made purposefully ambiguous so that the
wearer might be perceived as having a higher rank.
The small, plain, stiffened fur collar indicates the season is
winter and helps to date this work to the second half of the
nineteenth century, when such collars were fashionable. The
type of collar also indicates this is the informal style of dress
rather than full court dress, as does the hat, a winter style
used in informal settings.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
hanging scroll

Additional Object Classification(s)

Collection Area

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