Identify the artist, title, period style and medium.
The piece was created during the Qing dynasty, which was between 1644 and 1911. This was the last imperial reign in China and it was followed by Nationalism and then Communism. The piece was created in 1667. The artist of the piece is not revealed. In this essay, I will analyze the various components of the Portrait of the Kangxi Emperor in Court Dress that points to various cultural components. The image tells the story about how the emperor was meant to be perceived during the period.
Discuss the subject matter of the artwork. Does it contain any iconography, symbolism, narrative story or message?
The image has a lot of ethos in it, due to the fact that there is much underlying sentiment in the image that shows the idea behind the emperor wanting to have the artwork completed. His belief was that he would be perceived as being more powerful if he only allowed a select few people see his image. This created a divide between him and the common people who lived under his rule. This showed that there is a power that he possesses that regular people are far separated from, and this game him a higher status in their eyes.
There is also a lot of symbolism in the piece. His posture shows how powerful and confident he is – at least that is the image that the emperor wanted to achieve. He was an extremely authoritative figure, and it was vitally important that he enhanced his image by having not necessarily the accurate depiction of himself in the piece, but instead a depiction of how he wanted to be perceived to the people around him.
Discuss the cultural (religious, historical, political) context of the artwork.
The position that the piece is sitting is quite broad. This is representative of the rule of China at the time. During the period, the nation reached its largest geographical area, as it encompassed all of East Asia and Inner Asia. This piece is historically significant because the emperor didn’t allow himself to be pictured in any way. The piece gives the audience an idea of what the emperor may have looked like. However, it is unknown whether the emperor actually appeared that way. For example, the artist may have been told to make his shoulders more broad so that he is seen as being a stronger person, and therefore he could look to be more powerful.
An interesting component is that there are dragons depicted on the dress that he is wearing, and there are supposed to be nine. But only 8 are visible. This could be interpreted to mean that the emperor himself is supposed to be considered as being the 9th dragon in the image. The use of dragons gives this image a metaphysical texture.
Why is this artwork culturally significant? What does it tell us about the culture/religion/region that produced it?
The art is culturally significant in that it shows how confident the posture is, and it is a rare thing to have the emperor being depicted. He was not the type of person to have his image on display, and this is perhaps an indication of the times. The emperor wanted to keep his privacy because he felt his image was more powerful when it is concealed. But even though the image was drawn, only a select few could look at it. The commoners could not look at the image, and this helped to give the emperor a godlike status, and it was a technique used to guard himself against people trying to assassinate him, even during the afterlife.
The clothes that are used in the piece show the emperor’s divine authority, his magnificence and his grandeur. The court dress that the emperor wore was meant to declare the ruler’s royal status. The artwork shows that it is very detailed, and made of woven silk textiles, gold thread embroidery, and had peacock feathers and pearls. One of these robes may have taken a couple years to design and make. And that shows how dedicated the people were to their emperor and how serious his position was to the nation.