Artful Subversion: Empress Dowager CIXI's Image Making

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Artful Subversion: Empress Dowager CIXI's Image Making
This revelatory book shows how the influential and controversial Empress Dowager Cixi used art and architecture to establish her authority

Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908), who ruled China from 1861 until her death in 1908, is a subject of fascination and controversy, at turns vilified for her political maneuvering and admired for modernizing China. In addition to being an astute politician, she was an earnest art patron, and this beautifully illustrated book explores a wide range of objects, revealing how the empress dowager used art and architecture to solidify her rule.

Cixi's art commissions were innovative in the way that they unified two distant conceptions of gender in China at the time, demonstrating her strength and wisdom as a monarch while highlighting her identity as a woman and mother. Artful Subversion examines commissioned works, including portrait paintings and photographs, ceramics, fashion, architecture, and garden design, as well as work Cixi created, such as painting and calligraphy. The book is a compelling study of how a powerful matriarch at once subverted and upheld the Qing imperial patriarchy.

Publication Date: 
January 24, 2023