Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Portraits of members of a Manchu family

Unidentified Artist
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
mid-19th century
Album of nineteen leaves; ink and color on silk
13 1/8 x 14 1/8 in. (33.3 x 35.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Anonymous Gift, 1952
Accession Number:
Not on view
Portrait albums are rare, and this one, which seems to depict an entire family, is particularly unusual. The clothing indicates that the subjects were Manchus, the ethnicity of the ruling Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Several of the men wear “rank badges”—textile squares or circles indicating their official position within the Qing government. In each image, objects of refinement—books, fine furniture, scholar’s rocks—are carefully placed around the sitter to indicate his or her sophistication. This album is a touching document of one family’s attempt to record its ideal self-image.
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