In the painting, the empress, who was 71 years old at the time, looks much younger and prettier. The newspaper claims that the empress insisted the painter enlarge her eyes, plump her lips and tone up her skin color whilst portraying her.
A repaired portrait of Empress Dowager Cixi by Dutch artist Hubert Vos in 1905 was unveiled in the Summer Palace on Tuesday, November 4, 2008. [the Beijing News]
The portrait was part of the collection held at the Summer Palace but it was severely damaged in the 1950s. Previously, there had not been an expert in China capable of suitably restoring the piece until a historic relics research institute in the Dutch province of Limburg offered to help.
It took experts from the institute almost 20 days to finish the restoration work in March this year. The whole restoration process was recorded as a documentary.
The portrait will go on display in the royal palace starting Tuesday.
Empress Dowager Cixi was a divisive figure who became the de facto ruler of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), ruling over China for 47 years from her husband's death in 1861 to her own death in 1908.
On invitation of the Qing government in 1905, Hubert Vos, who was famed at that time for his work in portraying royal families including those of Holland and North Korea, came to China to paint Empress Cixi. He was the first male western artist to paint for the Empress.
(CRI November 5, 2008)