Women and East Asian Art

Tartar Officer with Blonde Lady

The painting Tartar Officer with Blonde Lady was done with colors on silk during the Qing Dynasty and does not have a known artist.[1] The man is physically in a dominant position over his female counterpart and possesses harsh and masculine features. Blanketed by the man, the woman is confined into a passive stance and depicted with delicate and graceful features. Reflective of Qing Dynasty society, Tartar Officer with Blonde Lady is a representation of women’s duty to be compliant and accommodating to men.

As the couple gazes down at two dogs, the man stands behind the woman embracing her and holding her right rand. Although the two are roughly the same height, he appears physically larger than her. This is due to the woman’s petite figure and slender fingers. Additionally, her neck and face are slim whereas the man’s neck is nearly nonexistent. Instead the man possesses a strong, rectangular face with dark outlined facial features that contrast the pale and elegant face of the woman. Although the woman’s red color strikes the audience, the male’s arms intrude and superimpose it as well. The dogs, as well as other background objects that include a plant, a vase, and a table indicate that the two are of higher class. The blonde woman could insinuate contact with the West. The overall composition is centered and fairly symmetrical with a balance of entities on both sides. This piece is also one of eight in an album leaf collection. Tartar Officer with Blonde Lady is the first in the series and it progresses to be very crude and sexual.[2]

The Qing Dynasty was heavily influenced by Confucian Ideals,[3] which commanded that women’s duty was to serve men and fulfill their every need.[4] Because of Confucianism and its impact of Chinese society, many paintings such as Tartar Officer with Blonde Lady reinforced and reiterated patriarchy and women’s submissive role to men.

[1] metmuseum.org (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), accessed November 24, 2019, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/51750)

[2] Ibid,.

[3] “Qing Dynasty,” Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., November 21, 2019), https://www.britannica.com/topic/Qing-dynasty#ref331833)

[4] Patricia Ebrey, “Women in Traditional China,” AsiaSociety.org (Asia Society), accessed November 24, 2019, https://asiasociety.org/education/women-traditional-china)

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