Lai Afong Qing Nobleman LI HUNG-CHANG (Li Hongzhang) in Winter Coat

Price $1,750

Ref.# 15714

Medium Albumen print from wet plate negative

Mount on original mount

Photo Date 1870s  Print Date 1870s

Dimensions 10-3/4 x 8-1/4 in. (273 x 210 mm)

Photo Country China

Photographer Country China

Contact Alex Novak and Marthe Smith


Phone +1-215-822-5662

Contemporary Works / Vintage Works, Ltd.

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About This Image

Li Hongzhang (February 15, 1823 – November 7, 1901), Marquis Suyi (also romanised as Li Hung-chang), was a Chinese politician, general and diplomat of the late Qing dynasty. He quelled several major rebellions and served in important positions in the Qing imperial court, including the Viceroy of Zhili, Huguang and Liangguang.

Although he was best known in the West for his generally pro-modern stance and importance as a negotiator, Li antagonized the British with his support of Russia as a foil against Japanese expansionism in Manchuria and fell from favor with the Chinese after their defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War. His image in China remains controversial, with criticism on one hand for political and military mistakes and praise on the other for his success against the Taiping Rebellion, his diplomatic skills defending Chinese interests in the era of unequal treaties, and his role pioneering China's industrial and military modernization. He was presented the Royal Victorian Order by Queen Victoria. He also held the noble peerage First Class Count Suyi and was posthumously honored as First Class Marquis Suyi.

Because of Li's reputation for welcoming foreign influence and his 1896 visit to the United States, he was regarded favorably there. He was wrongly credited with inventing the American Chinese dish chop suey during that visit. In 1913, William Francis Mannix wrote and published a fabricated "Memoirs of Li Hung Chang," which received widespread praise before being exposed as a forgery in 1923.

Lai Afong ??? (c.1839-1890)–also called Lai Fong–was perhaps one of the most famous and successful Chinese commercial photographer and proprietor of the longest lived photographic studio in 19th-century Hong Kong. From its opening in 1859 to around the 1940s, Afong and his studio created a rare and large body of photographs. Subject matters range from portraits (very popular among wealthy Chinese audience), topographic views (such as cityscapes or picturesque scenes), to social life pictures.

Lai's work and person were praised by John Thomson, a Scottish photographer working in China at the time, in Thomson's book The Straits of Malacca, Indo-China, and China. Lai's experience totally originated into the Western community, but it still reveals the same sensibility of the literati painting which embodied both learned references to the styles of ancient masters and the inner spirit of the artist. According to the verso of many of his carte-de-visite works, he was photographer to Sir Arthur Kennedy KCB and Grand Duke Alexis.

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