Mediumink, color on paper
DimensionsImage : 64 1/2 x 32 in. (1.6 m x 81.28 cm)
Credit LineGift of Risa and Chris Engle in honor of Mayia and Leah
LabelPaying respect to one’s ancestors and elders has been a central component of Confucian culture in China for thousands of years. In pre-modern China, wealthy families sometimes commemorated members who achieved high status or were otherwise successful by commissioning painted portraits of them. These portrait paintings often follow a kind of formula, depicting the figures posed in a chair, wearing formal clothing and sometimes surrounded by possessions or other symbols indicative of their status and wealth. This 19th-century ancestor portrait depicts a man sitting on a textile-covered chair, on an elaborately-patterned rug, and wearing the garments of a high-ranking, Qing-dynasty government official. Ancestor portraits were typically not displayed year-round but were instead brought out only on special occasions such as the Spring Festival or Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival when families performed ritual ceremonies to honor their elders and remember their forebears.