DESCRIPTION: A large, colorful Chinese ancestor portrait showing multiple generations of the same family seated beneath orange curtains pulled back with blue sashes. Presented in the traditional frontal pose, this painting on rice paper depicts 10 females and 8 males seated on carved chairs and dressed in colorful semiformal gowns, each with distinctively different facial features. The couple at the top have embroidered insignias that proclaim the couple's rank and status. All the detail is excellent on the faces and garments. We believe this painting dates to the 19th century, possibly earlier. CONDITION: A few stains, creases or retouched areas, but the colors are quite vibrant and overall it provides a beautiful, striking appearance, more so than the photos can communicate. DIMENSIONS: Painting is 37" wide (94 cm) x 67 1/4" high (1.71 m); entire scroll is 41" wide (1.04 m) x 89" high (2.26 m).
ABOUT ANCESTOR PORTRAITS: The Chinese have long had a profound connection to their ancestors. They believe that death does not sever a person’s relationship with the living and that, if properly worshipped and honored in private family rituals, the spirits of their ancestors can bring them health, long life, prosperity and children. In Imperial China, filial sons of all classes, as part of their sacred family duty to care for the spirits of their ancestors, paid homage to them in ritual ceremonies in which they placed food offerings before the portrait scrolls of their forebears. Chinese commemorative portraits, commonly referred to as "ancestor paintings," were painted specifically for use in ancestor worship. Besides being compelling art, the paintings reveal much about Chinese social and cultural history. With the development of photography in the 19th century, the painting of ancestor portraits began to wane.