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.
Private Collection , New York (until 1952; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Manchu Dragon: Costumes of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912)," December 8, 1980–August 29, 1981.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Art of the Chinese Album," September 6, 2014–March 29, 2015.