While I have not specified which empress this is in the title, she was actually the Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi  or Cixi (1835-1908) and one of the most formidable of figures. According to King’s College, she ‘was famed for her beauty and charm’.

The original empress image from a 1920s edition of The Children's Encyclopaedia

The original empress image from a 1920s edition of The Children’s Encyclopaedia

These were not the least of her qualities, apparently, since she ‘was power hungry, ruthless and profoundly skilled in court politics’, rising from the middle class of Manchu society to become a concubine of Emperor Hsien-Feng and the only one to bear him a son. It is not surprising to learn that she could as easily be a great friend as a terrible enemy.

Marble Endpaper

Marble Endpaper

My first impression of the Children’s Encyclopaedia reproduction, which was from an oil painting done in 1906, was of a woman one had better not cross swords with and how right I was! Her story is fascinating and well worth reading.

Many old images are divine as they stand but sometimes I yearn to change them and that was the case with Tzu-Hsi.  By giving the picture an underlay of green marble scanned from the endpaper of the encyclopaedia (as above) and a layer of creamy yellow, I have softened the overall effect and made the image more pleasing to the eye — well, my eye, at least!
Art Prints

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

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