EMPRESS CIXI (1835-1908)
Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk
101 x 51.5 cm. (39 3/4 x 20 1/4 in.)
Inscribed and signed, with four seals of the artist
Dated jiachen year (1904) of the Guangxu period
“Planting peach and plum trees in spring, resting under their shades in summer and tasting
their fruits in autumn. “
- Illustrations of the Didactic Application of the Classic of Songs
In 1904, jiachen year of the Guangxu period, many events were held at the Qing court to celebrate Cixi’s 70th birthday. At that time, an American artist, Katherine A. Carl, created an oil portrait of the Dowager Empress showing her to have a clear andradiant complexion and calm demeanour. According to the memoirs of Carl, Cixi
was very satisfied with the painting. Like the emperors of the Qing dynasty, empress Cixi wanted to enhance her artistic and cultural legacy. Amongst the sizable team of court painters, some of them were good at realistic Western techniques while others were more proficient in traditional Chinese paintings. As Cixi adored flower paintings, female painters such as Carland Miao Jiahui were summoned to the Qing court to accompany the Dowager Empress when painting and practicing calligraphy.
In Peaches, Cixi exemplified her 70th birthday wish for longevity through the depiction of the legendary peach of the Queen Mother of the West. Her imperial position was amplified by the seal ‘Treasure of the Empress Cixi’ on the top of the painting.