Ancestry Portrait – Asian Couple
Unknown artist. Tapestry
19th Century, Chinese, Qing Dynasty (1644-1912)
A Chinese official and his wife shown in traditional ceremonial attire seated on a throne. In this painting, you can see a badge on the front of both of their robes. Badges were worn on the robes of officials; these badges identify the rank and government branch of the bearer. There were three main category badges; imperial court, military administration, and civil administration. Highest ranking officials of the imperial court wore a dragon on their badge. There were nine military ranks identified by various animals. There were nine civil ranks as well and those badges bore images of various birds as shown in this portrait. This individual has a Manchurian Crane on his badge which means the individuals depicted in this portrait were first rank civil officials.
Badges were generally executed in needlework or tapestry weave (kesi) on a dark ground. The dragon, beast or bird would be centered, surrounded by scrollwork, clouds and/or auspicious symbols, above stylized waves and rockwork, all within a stylized border of key-fret, scrollwork or additional favorable symbols.
Portrait painting is a 2,000-year-old tradition in China.