Portrait of a lady

Chinese mirror painting showing an elegant lady seated at a table, mid-eighteenth century, in the Chinese Bedroom at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Rob Matheson

Chinese mirror painting showing an elegant lady seated at a table, mid-eighteenth century, in the Chinese Bedroom at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Rob Matheson

I managed to see the exhibition Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700-1900 at the V&A yesterday. It is a heroic and I think successful attempt to represent the entire history of Chinese painting in one exhibition, drawing on loans from museums across the world.

Pictures of elegant Chinese ladies. mid-eighteenth century, mounted on a room dvider in the Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Pictures of elegant Chinese ladies. mid-eighteenth century, mounted on a room dvider in the Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Among other things, the exhibition explains the distinction in Chinese painting between the professional and scholarly styles. The former was colourful, realistic and decorative, whereas the latter tended to be monochrome, high-minded and individualistic.

Chinese picture showing ladies in a garden, mid-eighteenth century, in the Study at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Chinese picture showing ladies in a garden, mid-eighteenth century, in the Study at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Because of my current research into Chinese wallpaper (and Chinese pictures used as wallpaper) I am completely biased towards Chinese professional paintings, which influenced the wallpapers made for the west. I was fascinated by some pictures by Ren Renfa of c. 1500, for instance, showing people engaged in elegant pastimes and including a landscape painting mounted on a movable screen, evidence of the early ‘architectural’ use of Chinese painting.

Chinese picture of a lady with a mottled bamboo fishing rod, mid-eighteenth century, in the Study at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Bush

Chinese picture of a lady with a mottled bamboo fishing rod, mid-eighteenth century, in the Study at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Bush

In the same section of the exhibition, ‘The Pursuit of Happiness: 1400-1600′, there are a number of paintings with elegant ladies. V&A curator Luisa Mengoni explained to me how these figures don’t just represent physical beauty, but also reference cultured accomplishments such as music and dance, and refinement more generally. Beauty is never just beauty.

2 Responses to “Portrait of a lady”

  1. Princess of Eboli History Masquerade Says:

    This is incredible beautiful !!!!!❤️❤️

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Glad you like it.

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