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HUBERT VOS (1855-1935)
THE PROPERTY OF AN AMERICAN GENTLEMAN
HUBERT VOS (1855-1935)

HARMONIE

Details
HUBERT VOS (1855-1935)
HARMONIE
Signed 'Hubert Vos'; dated '1910' (lower right)
oil on canvas
Painted in 1910
72 x 44 1/4 in. (182.9 x 112.4 cm.) framed
Provenance
A private collection, Arizona
Adamson-Duvannes Galleries, Los Angeles, 2010
Literature
The International Studios, Vol. 49, 1913
John Seed, 'Hubert Vos: Court Painter of Empress Dowager Cixi', Arts of Asia, Jan/Feb 2015, fig. 8
Exhibited
Paris Salon, 1912
Fischer Gallery, New York, February-March, 1913

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Lot Essay

This large oil painting, which depicts an interior setting, very likely of the artist's own home in Newport, Rhode, Island, contains two elements which are indicative of the amiable relationship between the Dutch-American portrait painter Hubert Vos and the Empress Dowager Cixi in Qing China.

The first element, unmistakably, is the small portrait of a seated lady dressed in Manchu attire, depicted on the left side of the painting just above the cabinet. This small portrait is an identical replica of a famous portrait also painted by Vos, now in the collection of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University. The subject in the portrait is the Empress Dowager Cixi, who invited Vos to visit China in 1905 to create portraits for her, earning him his place as the first male Westerner to be awarded the commission. In Beijing, Vos created a portrait which portrays the Empress Dowager at a significantly younger age, and appeared to have won her approval, since it was later displayed at Cixi’s favourite garden, the Yiheyuan, and had remained there until today. What the Empress Dowager did not expect was that, when Vos returned to the United States in 1906, he created another portrait of her, depicting her with a much sterner expression and facial features more consistent with her real age. This portrait later entered the collection of the Fogg Art Museum, and was again recreated by Vos in this current oil painting.

The second element is the large apricot-ground embroidered tapestry hung on the wall in the painting. This tapestry was part of the numerous gifts lavishly bestowed by Cixi on Vos in return for his portrait of her. It is known that Vos treasured this embroidery dearly, which was hung in his family homes, first in New York city and later Newport for three generations. Incidentally, this tapestry was offered for auction at Christie’s Hong Kong, 3 June 2015, lot 3163.

This remarkable painting is a visual reminder of Vos's fond memories of his experience at the Qing Imperial court, as well as his deep appreciation for the generous departure gifts awarded to him by the Empress Dowager.

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