While looking at this Chinese ancestor portrait you may be unaware of the endless stories about the courtly tradition of the Qing dynasty. You might be asking yourself, who is this women? What type of robe is she wearing and what does it mean? The female depicted is most likely the Empress of the Kangxi Emperor, the third emperor of the Manchu Qing dynasty. Usually dressed in ceremonial robes, images of women of her status were painted in lavish fashion. The figures wore highly ornamented clothing--often using gold threads--and sat in carved thrones. The elaborate dragon designs that decorate her robe attest to her noble birth, social standing and familial wealth. Similarly, the three earrings she wears in each ear symbolize her high social status. Now look at the Empress's facial expression: her blank stare is typical of portraits of relatively young court women; her impassive face is meant to add to her overall presence and authority.
Sarah Rathman '08