A Pair of Chinese Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Reverse Glass Paintings

Height: 25” 63.5cm
Width: 19” 48.5cm
Origination: Chinese
Circa: 1820-1850

These reverse glass paintings each depict a beautiful Court lady showing scholarly attributes and possibly painted to commemorate their birthdays.  Each is finely dressed, one in a cornflower blue silk damask gown under which can be seen the edge of a wool lining, the other in a coral coloured silk summer gown embroidered with auspicious symbols.  The gowns are both woven or embroidered with the symbol for long life and the coral gown is also decorated with butterflies symbolising happiness.


Further symbolism includes the use of a phoenix hairpin and a hair pin in the shape of the eternal knot, symbol of long life, and peonies symbolising feminine beauty, pomegranates for fertility and the bamboo painted on the fan also alludes to long life. Their long black hair is drawn up showing their beauty and decorated with an extension arranged with fresh flowers and ornaments.


The inclusion of the Calligraphic scroll in one and the fan in the other makes clear that the ladies are educated whilst indications as to their aristocratic status and wealth can be gleaned from the use of kingfisher feathers adoring their hair ornaments and earrings.  Their long nails symbolised the playing of musical instruments or to show they did not have to work. Most likely each lady was of Royal Manchu descent wearing informal gowns. The symbols especially the abundant use of the eternal knot indicate long life birthday celebrations. Perhaps the portraits were created to show their youth and beauty and eligibility to marry. The style of the robes, colours and symbols all indicate mid-19th century designs between 1820-1850.