Friday, December 27, 2013

Portrait of an Official

Profile of young Qing Dynasty official
The color and material of the sphere in the hat finial indicates an official's rank.1 An opaque blue hat knob indicates an official of the 4th rank.

You can see why I decided to portray an official in informal uniform instead of ceremonial or formal dress. ;-) It's much less work, lol. Hats for formal occasions have a hat spike instead of a hat knob,2 and hat quills differentiated status according to color - blue quills for 6th rank and below, peacock quills for 5th rank and above,3 - and the number of 'eyes' in the peacock feathers.4 Formal uniform also required rank badges.5 The ceremonial6 necklace of 108 beads was worn by civil officials of 5th rank and higher, and military officers of 4th rank and above.7

Frame design takes inspiration from, but not intended to be an accurate representation of, Chinese Qing Dynasty fabric borders. The subject may be Chinese, but the presentation is influenced by 17th-18th century portraits from Mughal India. (Chinese portraits of the same era favor the frontal view) This is a companion piece to Portrait of a (Mughal) Courtier.

For a bearded version of the same gentleman, click here. :-)

On a side note:

During the Qing Dynasty, there was Chinese art created specifically for export to Mughal India. These paintings made for the Indian market tend to have a more rendered, "3D" style than those made for the indigenous market, which had a flatter approach to depicting objects. A number of examples of Chinese art for the Mughal market can be found in Symbols and Rebuses in Chinese Art: Figures, Bugs, Beasts, and Flowers.

Chinese lattice design in backdrop based on one from the Forbidden City.

Many thanks to the friends who took time to provide helpful feedback.

  1. Zhou, Xun & Gao, Chunming, 5000 Years of Chinese Costumes, p182
  2. Jackson, Beverly & Hugus, David, Ladder to the Clouds: Intrigue and Tradition in Chinese Rank, p117
  3. Zhou & Gao, p182
  4. Vollmer, E. John, Ruling from the Dragon Throne: Costume of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), p77
  5. Jackson & Hugus, p45
  6. Vollmer, p80
  7. Zhou & Gao, p182

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