I'm having mixed emotions about this post. I recently acquired this fairly large
painting on canvas of a 19th century Chinese family. At the time of the purchase
I didn't know much about the Ming and Qing Dynasty tradition of commissioning a
formal family portrait from the artisans, before the advent of photography. This
particular painting below, I guess, is from the the mid-nineteenth century.
My genuine problem started making shape, when I was taking photos of the
individual members of the family: gradually many of them on the canvas and in
my viewfinder seemed to come alive to me, one by one. And, furthermore, they
seemed to be probing me, whether I was 'trying to further denigrate us, after all
our family's been through in the many decades to follow this happy time'.
No doubt, this was a family of a certain esteem, based on the Mandarin Squares
featuring crane birds that many of the family members are wearing (I initially
mistakenly thought they were holding some sort of placards), to show off their
close connection to the governing elite.
Anyway, I'm sure this was a family of civilised people enjoying the good things in
life, with established family structures, and happily living the Qing Dynasty time,
until the onset of the 20th century. The global and local turmoils seem to be
constant in our history, and the Chinese have had their share.
But no, after some 150 years, I do not want to offend you, I just want to pay
homage to you all, and to all the artisans who created this wonderful image of
you and your time.