Portraits of the Qianlong Emperor and His Twelve Consorts

Giuseppe Castiglione (Italian, 1688-1766) and others (Chinese)1736–c. 1770s

The Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland, United States

Formal portraiture contributed to the affirmation of status and construction of role and identity. This scroll served as both familial documentation and a "mind picture" of the Qianlong emperor, suggesting that his constructed image of emperorship was inseparable from concepts of self and family. It was stored in a carved red lacquer box bearing the original painting title Mind Picture of a Well-Governed and Tranquil Reign (see CMA 1969.32).

Qianlong's portrait is inscribed with a date of 1736, the year he ascended the throne. The other portraits document the appearances of the empress and eleven consorts around the time when they received their respective imperial titles, which occurred at different stages of the emperor's life. The first three portraits were done by the Jesuit missionary-artist Giuseppe Castiglione whereas the others were by the Chinese court painters. Qianlong had unrolled and viewed the scroll in his old age, as indicated by the impression of the seals he used after abdicating in 1796.

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  • Title: Portraits of the Qianlong Emperor and His Twelve Consorts
  • Creator: Giuseppe Castiglione (Italian, 1688-1766), others (Chinese)
  • Date Created: 1736–c. 1770s
  • Physical Dimensions: Overall: 53.8 x 1154.5 cm (21 3/16 x 454 1/2 in.); Painting only: 53 x 688.3 cm (20 7/8 x 271 in.)
  • Provenance: Qing imperial collection (seals of Emperor Qianlong, r. 1736-1795), (Spink & Son, Ltd., London, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art), The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1969.31
  • Medium: Handscroll, ink and color on silk
  • Original Title: 乾隆帝及后妃圖卷
  • Inscriptions: 9 seals of the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736-95)., The eighth month, first year of Qianlong [1736] 乾隆元年八月吉日. The Empress (Xiaoxian) 皇后 (1712-1748), The Guifei (Huixian) 貴妃 (?-1745), Chunfei 純妃 (1713-1760), Jiafei 嘉妃 (?-1755), Lingfei 令妃 (1727-1775), Shufei 舒妃 (1728-1777), Qingbin 慶嬪 (1724-1774), Yingbin 穎嬪 (1731-1800), Xinbin 忻嬪 (?-1764), Dunfei 惇妃 (1746-1806), Xunfei 順妃 (1749-1788), Shunbin 循嬪 (?-1797).
  • Fun Fact: Lingfei 令妃 (1727–1775), the first consort depicted in the maroon or “incense-colored" 香色 robe, was the mother of six of Qianlong’s children, including the future Emperor Jiaqing.
  • Department: Chinese Art
  • Culture: China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
  • Credit Line: John L. Severance Fund
  • Collection: ASIAN - Handscroll
  • Accession Number: 1969.31

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