Palace Ladies and Children

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Artist: Ding Guanpeng (active 1726-after 1770)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, mid-18th century
Ink and color on paper
H x W (image): 17.4 x 93.5 cm (6 7/8 x 36 13/16 in)
Credit Line
Transfer from the United States Customs Service, Department of the Treasury
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


child, China, court, playing, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), reading, woman

To 1960
Chen Rentao (1906-1968), Hong Kong, and Frank Caro, C. T. Loo & Co., New York, to 1960 [1]

From 1960 to 1979
U.S. Customs Service, Department of the Treasury [2]

From 1979
Freer Gallery of Art, from October 23, 1979 [3]

[1] This object is one of a group of 88 objects (F80.104-F80.180, FSC-S-22-25 and FSC-O-11a-h) seized in 1960 by the U.S. Customs Service, Department of the Treasury, from the dealer and collector Chen Rentao, Hong Kong and Frank Caro of C. T. Loo & Co., New York. The objects were deemed to have been introduced into the commerce of the United States in violation of 19 U.S.C. 1592 (Trade with Communist China).

[2] See note 1. The object’s ownership title is based on the settlement agreement, dated November 1971, between the United States, Chen Tung Siang Wen, the executrix for Chen Rentao Estate, and Frank Caro, copy in object file. See U.S. Customs Service Memorandum, April 23, 1979 and a letter from Thadeus Rojek, Chief Counsel, Department of the Treasury, U.S. Custom Service, to Marie C. Malaro, Assistant General Counsel, Smithsonian Institution, dated November 29, 1979, copy in object file. The objects remained in the custody of the U.S. Customs Service office in New York until 1979.

[3] The object was transferred to the Freer Gallery of Art on October 23, 1979.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

U.S. Customs Service
Frank Caro 1904-1980
Chen Rentao 1906-1968


This minature handscroll, called a sleeve scroll because it can be easily carried in one's costume, depicts a group of Manchu court women and their children as they gather informally in a garden of the summer palace. In miniature scale and pale, delicate colors, the painter offers a glimpse into the most sacred of the inner chambers of the imperial palaces, chambers into which, theoretically, only one man was permitted to enter: the emperor (eunuchs being an exception). Whether Ding Guanpeng was ever actually admitted into these inner sanctums is not known, but painters like Ding were expected to paint portraits of the imperial family and were occasionally permitted to enter otherwise forbidden areas.

The emperor ordered this painting, as is indicated by the painter's signature in the lower left corner. Ding Guanpeng was a versatile court master, specializing in religious and secular figure subjects, as well as scenes of court life.

Published References
  • Scientific Studies of Pigments in Chinese Paintings. Washington, DC. p. 45, fig. 3.3.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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