The Ordination of Empress Zhang [detail]
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John Jeffers, 1961.94
This important painting made at the Ming dynasty court is an example of the refined, colorful imperial style. The subject is the ordination of Empress Zhang (1470–1541) as a high priestess of the Daoist religion. She was the sole consort of the Emperor Hongshi (r. 1488–1505) and mother of his successor.
The scroll unfolds with alternating sections of calligraphy and figural painting related to the ordination ceremony. The figures include depictions of the highest Daoist gods and a portrait of the Empress. Daoist officials and protectors follow against stylized, pastel swirling clouds. The middle section has a long black ink inscription written by the ordination master. It outlines the important scriptures, talismans and lists of gods’ names that were transmitted to the empress. Eight large characters written in gold seal script and nineteen more individually portrayed gods, some “Celestial Guards,” complete this stunning scroll.