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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Chinese Portrait Painter

Artist:
Miwa Zaiei (died 1789)
Period:
Edo period (1615–1868)
Date:
18th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Two-panel folding screen; ink, color, and gold on paper
Dimensions:
40 x 49 1/4 in. (101.6 x 125.1 cm)
Classification:
Screens
Credit Line:
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Accession Number:
29.100.528
Not on view
A Chinese painter dressed in the style of the Tang dynasty (618–907) is painting a small portrait of a beautiful lady who stands in front of him adjusting her hair. The small painting-within-a-painting faithfully replicates the lady's face. The screen painting itself is a testament to the sometimes conflicting ideals held by eighteenth-century Japanese artists. Although nothing is known about the background of the artist, named Miwa Zaiei, except that he lived and worked in the city of Edo, he must have been affected by the concept of Western realism, which had become fashionable in eighteenth-century Japanese art and prompted him to portray the painter in the act of painting his subject in the flesh. Ironically, however, Zaiei still felt compelled to follow the traditional practice of creating an imaginary setting from ancient China for his image of presumably "real" life.
Signature: Miwa Zai'ei hitsu
Seal: Zai'ei
Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer , New York (until d. 1929; bequeathed to MMA).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Tribute to a Dedicated Collector: Mary Griggs Burke," June 30, 2004–November 29, 2004.

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