Canton, Kwangtung province, China: a Cantonese mandarin official. Photograph by John Thomson, 1869.
- Thomson, J. (John), 1837-1921.
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About this work
A man seated in an interior, holding a pipe, at his feet a leopard-skin rug. A white masking frame appears between the centre and the periphery of the photograph, around the sitter, marking the area for reproduction
A fine example of John Thomson’s work as portrait photographer. The subject looks directly at the camera, the pose in which all 'men of taste' in China would like to be photographed. However, there is a shadow hiding half of the man’s face, a chiaroscuro art technique not acceptable for portraiture in China at the time: while trying to adapt to Chinese taste, Thomson did not always conform. According to Thomson this man was a sixth-grade mandarin official and a man of letters who possessed two degrees in imperial examinations. He is dressed in official costume, which corresponds to his rank. Although his salary from the government might be small, with bribery and extortion he could earn up to ten or even 100 times the amount of his official pay
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