Thursday, 16 February 2012

Ancestor Hangings

 I recently bought two Ancestor Hangings having seen some on a trip to Singapore. I just love the colours and faded elegance of them. I wanted to find out more about these unusual family heirlooms and I discovered that these were painted by the Chinese to worship their deceased family members.

The Chinese believe that death does not sever a persons relationship with the living and that, if properly worshipped the spirits of their ancestors can bring health,long life, prosperity and children.Chinese commemorative portraits, commonly referred to as "ancestor paintings," were painted specifically for use in ancestor worship; the power of the living person was believed to reside in their portrait after death.

The ancestors were almost always depicted nearly life-size in a frontal pose, usually seated in an elaborately carved chair draped in brocade or fur, with a lavish carpet at their feet. All of the ancestors wore semiformal winter gowns or fur-trimmed robes with elaborate insignia that proclaimed their rank or princely status. The only differences are gender-related: the women’s feet, considered the most erotic part of her body, were always hidden; most women’s hands were also hidden as well. Both men and women are often shown wearing long jade bead necklaces and elaborate headdresses with gold and pearl ornaments.

While the highly styled costumes are encoded with symbols of the wearer’s court status and social position, the most important part of the portrait is the face, which individualizes and identifies the ancestor and lifts him to the realm of icon. All ancestors were painted with virtually the same expression- a symbolically somber and detached look- to suggest otherworldly status. Yet great care is taken in the portraits to record the deceased’s face realistically; capturing the likeness was crucial for the portrait to be able to function as a ritual object.

And of course having discovered these beautiul objects I have now found them in interiors magazines......

Truly beautiful !!!!

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