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Seated Lady Holding a Fan
Seated Lady Holding a Fan, Early 18th century
Mangguli, Chinese
Ink and color on silk; originally mounted as a hanging scroll
5 feet 6 1/2 inches x 43 3/4 inches (168.9 x 111.1 cm)
Gift of Mrs. W. James Anderson, Mrs. Samuel Bell, Jr., Mrs. Richard Drayton, and Charles T. Ludington, Jr., in memory of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Townsend Ludington, 1970
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Looking Questions

  • What is the mood of this painting?
    Loud and noisy?
    Calm and still?
  • How do the colors contribute to the mood?
  • Are the lines of the furniture simple or complicated?
    What about the lines of the lady’s robe?
  • What are the objects surrounding the lady?
    What do they tell us about her?

Art Activity: Self-Portraits

Seated Lady Holding a Fan shows an elegant lady surrounded by objects that symbolize her privileged lifestyle and refined tastes. Mandarin in His Study shows an official in his study, surrounded by the trappings of his office and scholarship. In these Chinese portraits, the objects around the sitter tell us as much about him or her as the actual likeness does. Have students create self-portraits in which they use objects to express their interests, values, and personalities. Students should mount a photograph of themselves onto paper and then surround it with drawings or magazine clippings of objects that represent their interests and passions. Display the photographs in the classroom. Assign each student a portrait—not their own—on which to write a short essay, describing the sitter from the object clues that appear in the portrait. Finally, have students try to match the essay with the portrait that inspired it.

Research Project: The Secret of Silk

The graceful lady in the watercolor painting wears a fine silk gown in a style of garment popular among the high-class women during the Qing dynasty (1644–1911). The portrait is also painted on a piece of silk. Have students research the history of silk. How is it made? What made it so desirable as a cloth for fine garments? In the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, China was the only place in the world where silk was made. Why? What other countries wanted Chinese silk for garments? What made it so expensive? Search the Internet for pictures of silk clothing from other countries during this period, 1675–1725. How and why did China try to protect its secret of silk cultivation?

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