This is a portrait of a Manchu woman in her semiformal costume.
Though the woman in this painting wears a Manchu court costume, she is likely not of Manchu descent since she lacks the three earrings worn in each ear by Manchu women. Her costume is semiformal (jifu), meaning it is without necklaces, piling, surcoat, and court hat. The long blue vest that she wears over? the robe has a square badge depicting a flycatcher; this signifies that her husband is a ninth-rank civil official. It is not known whether the red robe with golden dragons was common among the wives of lower ranking officials. The portrait is painted on paper rather than the silk more commonly used in ancestral portraits; it is also smaller.than typical Qing court portraits. The carefully rendering of shadows and volume in the face may reflect the influence of the technology of photography in the late Qing court.
A seated king, at the left, holds the hand of a swooning woman who is supported by another woman. The supporting woman looks back at the king.
Derived from the Old Testament story of the Jewish heroine, Esther, Guercino depicts the dramatic moment when Esther enters the king's presence unbidden and faints in distress. Although she is his queen, no one may approach the king without his permission.
The Museum of Art is fortunate to have two preparatory drawings for the Guercino painting of "Esther Before Ahasuerus" (the other is 2008/1.161). In this work, Guercino is exploring the psychological relationships between the principal figures: Ahasuerus, his queen Esther, and one of two attendants who support the queen. Between these two studies, it is possible to examine Guercino's process of arriving at his final composition. This sheet carefully explores the responses of the three figures, concentrating on the gesture of clemency as Ahasuerus reaches out to Esther with both his scepter and, in more personal concern, with his hand.
Overall wax-resist dyed pattern of crackled pale mauve on periwinkle ground, decorated with wax-resist dyed patterns of foral clusters in red, yellow, purple and white, and embroidery in gold, silver, and red metallic threads. White plain weave silk lining with wax-resist designs of fabric samples, predominantly red, blue, and gold. Silver and red red cords with tassles. Crest on the back of paired oak leaves (kashiwa) embroidered with gold couched threads and red and white bokashi silk thread.
The haori was originally part of a man’s formal attire, but in the nineteenth century, female entertainers in Edo (modern Tokyo) adopted it as a cloak for outdoor wear in mild weather.
By the end of the century, married women of the upper class adopted black crepe silk haori with family crests for formal, public occasions. For much of the twentieth century, the haori has been the standard outwear for a woman who dresses in a kimono outside of the home. The owner of the haori, Shizuko Iwata, was a pioneering female executive in mid-twentieth century Japan, running a successful real estate business. Just as modern business women by power suits to express their authority and wealth, so did Shizuko Iwata: she owned dozens of kimono, haori, and obi of the very finest quality, custom made for many different occasions, all in exquisite taste.
This painting shows a woman and a boy sitting at a dining table that is set for a meal. The woman, on the right side of the composition, is shown in a profile view and is using a ladle to pour soup into a bowl. The boy, seated in a ladder back chair, is holding a spoon with his hands resting on the table. He is gazing at the soup bowl. Both figures have somber, quiet facial expressions. A table lamp, seen only partially on the far left of the painting, is the single source of light. So, the figures and the table top are brightly lit, but the rest of the setting is very dark. Items on the table such as the plate with melon, the milk bottle, the salt and pepper shakers and the tablecloth, are shown in realistic detail, much like a still- life painting.
John Koch is well known for his scenes of richly furnished New York city homes depicted in a style of realism often compared to the master painter, Vermeer. In this painting, however, the subject matter is unknown. We see a simple meal of soup, bread and fruit shared quietly by a woman and a boy. Koch uses the light from the lamp to highlight their faces, but also to create a warm glow that encompasses this peaceful scene. The table items are painted in a manner reminiscent of a Dutch still-life painting, expecially the folds of the tablecloth and the reflection on the milk bottle.