100 Days of Art History Jinjins


The Empress Dowager Cixi

This is a painting of Cixi, the Dowager Empress of Qing dynasty China from 1861 to 1903. She was a notorious figure and very controversial. When I decided to do this entry I'd mostly heard of her as cruel and ruthless, though obviously managing to attain a powerful position and helming China through eras of great change. Glancing at her Wikipedia page, it seems her legacy is still being debated.

I wanted to do a painting of a Chinese or at least East Asian subject. I think I'd started to feel bad for just reinforcing the legend of the same old pieces from the Western art history canon, and wanted to switch it up and learn more about the art and visual culture of my Chinese heritage. This is a kind of compomise, because the painting is still by a Dutch artist (though it was commissioned by Cixi, and now hangs at the Summer Palace in Beijing.)

Looking back, I don't know if I was interested in painting myself as Cixi specifically, or just in painting myself as a fancy lady who was Eastern instead of Western. If I'm honest I think it may have been the latter. I liked putting in the fingernail jewelry. Always thought that was kind of a cool accessory.

Reference image is from Wikipedia.

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