Image: 68 1/8 x 36 7/16 in. (173 x 92.6 cm)
Overall with mounting: 105 1/8 x 48 11/16 in. (267 x 123.7 cm)
Overall with knobs: 105 1/8 x 52 1/2 in. (267 x 133.4 cm)
Purchase, The B. Y. Lam Fund and Friends of Asian Art Gifts, in honor of Douglas Dillon, 2001
Not on view
Guan Yu (d. A.D. 219), a warrior of the late Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 220) renowned for his valor and faithfulness, was later venerated as a saint in the Daoist pantheon. Elevated to the rank of emperor (di) by the Wanli emperor (r. 1573–1620) of the Ming dynasty, Guandi, as he was thenceforth known, served as a virtual patron saint of the Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty, who erected numerous shrines in his honor throughout China. In this image, Emperor Guan is shown descending from the heavens accompanied by his two attendants. He is identified by an inscription written in gold in the upper right: “Overseer of the Gate, Sage-Emperor Lord Guan.”
The painting, which comes from a set of religious images used in “water and land” (shuilu) rituals, is distinguished by its high level of craftsmanship, intricate detail, and lavish use of mineral pigments. An inscription in the lower right, “Respectfully commissioned by the imperial prince Zhuang,” shows that the painting was the product of the imperial workshop. Judging from its style, it was probably commissioned by the first holder of that title, the powerful Manchu prince Boggodo (1650–1723), whose grandfather Abahai (1592–1643), was the Qing dynasty founder.
Inscription: No artist’s inscription, signature or seal
Inscriptions on the painting
1. Unidentified Artist, 1 column in standard script, undated (framed as a gold cartouche at the upper right):
2. Unidentified Artist, 1 column in standard script, undated (at the lower right):
Boggodo 博果鐸 (1650–1723) Zhuang Qinwang bao 莊親王寳
Art Institute of Chicago. "Taoism and the Arts of China," November 4, 2000–January 7, 2001.
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. "Taoism and the Arts of China," February 21, 2001–May 13, 2001.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "When the Manchus Ruled China: Painting under the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)," February 2, 2002–August 18, 2002.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Douglas Dillon Legacy: Chinese Painting for the Metropolitan Museum," March 12, 2004–August 8, 2004.