Elderly Man, Silk scroll, 42" x 72"
The man painted on this silk scroll probably represents a family ancestor. His body and elaborate robes are stylized and two-dimensional, yet his face is modeled, giving the impression that this could be a life portrait. The family treated such ancestral figures with respect and often informed them of important domestic concerns.
The ancestor's hat identifies him as dating from the Qing Dynasty, in the mid-eighteenth century. The patch with a bird, pictured on the front of his robe, is called a mandarin square, a badge of first rank, prescribed for official robes by the sumptuary laws of 1391. The colorful pheasant embroidered on this patch indicates that the man was a civil official of the first or second rank. Five bats surround the shield and dragons decorate the shoulders, sleeves, and skirt.
This scroll was one of four donated to the Library in 1962 by Mrs. James A. Thomas. The other three, one depicting a lady, another a group setting, and the third calligraphy, also hang in the Thomas Reading Room.
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