Dated by the inscription to the Wushen year, corresponding to 1788, the subject is the bannerman and ‘national hero’ Teldence.
Drawn from a cross section of society, bannermen were the Qing dynasty’s military elite. This portrait was number five of a series commissioned after victory in Taiwan against Ming-loyalist rebels in the years 1787-88.
Teldence (who appears to have died during the campaign) wears a peacock feather in his black fur-trimmed winter hat, an imperial gift bestowed only to officers who had distinguished themselves on the battlefield.
A total of 50 imperial bannerman paintings were housed in the Ziguange (Hall of Purple Splendour), located in the West Garden of the palace in Beijing. This example, estimated at £200,000-300,000, comes for sale from an English private collection. According to the owner, the painting was gifted to her late husband in the 1970s.
As previously reported, Bonhams is also holding a sale on May 17 titled Bronze and Brush featuring classic bronzes and modern paintings from the dealer Michael Goedhuis.