Wen-chien Cheng. Idealized Portraits of Women for the Qing Imperial Court
The Forbidden City exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) brings together a group of paintings of women from the Yongzheng (1723–35) and Qianlong (1736–95) eras. Based on the traditional classifications of these paintings, they can be divided into two types: shinü hua or meiren hua (paintings of refined beautiful ladies) and gongxun tu (paintings of inner palace admonitions). Shinü hua highlight the physical beauty of women, for the pleasure of viewers. By contrast, gongxun tu, which depict idealized behaviour for elite women, serve normative and motivational ends. Qing court painters followed long-established traditions from both inside and outside the court for the production of the two genres of painting. This paper offers a close visual reading of such paintings featured in the exhibition to shed new light on their distinctive functions for members of the Qing imperial family.