Ancestors portrait of two women
D. 115 cm x 122 cm
This impressive painting on rice paper depicts a double portrait of ancestors. Ancestor portraits are a precious testimony of Chinese traditions and ancestor worship. They showed the importance of the family and were highly codified. Thus, the two women are each dressed in a ceremonial costume richly decorated with colourful floral motifs. They are also wearing precious ornaments that emphasise their social status. The two ladies are depicted in a frontal position, staring straight ahead with impassive faces.
This type of portrait was displayed on an altar in the family home and received offerings, especially on special occasions. Indeed, the descendants honoured their ancestors by placing baskets of fruit, food, wine, money or sticks of incense on the altar. According to tradition, honouring the spirit of the ancestors brought fortune, happiness and health. These portraits were made from descriptions of the family of the deceased. They were gradually replaced by photography in the late 19th century.
The surface of the work is damaged and warped in the upper quarter. A tear is also visible on the face of the person on the right.