Unidentified Artist Chinese, early 20th century (?)
Formerly Attributed to Yao Wenhan (Chinese, active ca. 1760–1790)
early 20th century (?)
Album of twenty-four leaves; ink and color on silk
11 1/8 x 8 3/4 in. (28.3 x 22.2 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Edward S. Harkness, 1947
Not on view
Portraits of past emperors, displayed in the imperial ancestral temple, served an important function in state rituals. In Qing times, the veneration of former rulers by Manchu emperors served the additional purpose of confirming the Qing dynasty's legitimacy in the succession of China's ruling houses.
These miniature portraits by the court artist Yao Wenhan are a typical product of the Qianlong Painting Academy. Based on earlier full-scale works, the albums may have been made as presentation pieces or as a handy reference showing China's most famous legendary and historical rulers. The pronounced use of shading in the depiction of many of the faces shows the influence of Western chiaroscuro modeling techniques introduced into China by Jesuit artists serving the Qing court.
Signature: Artist's Colophon Dated 1788 Ink on gold-flecked paper 2 columns in regular script Presented in the third month of the fifty-third year of the Qianlong reign, the jiaxu year , by imperial order, respectfully painted by your servitor, Yao Wenhan.