Face-making: Emotional and gendered meanings in Chinese clay portraits of Danish Asiatic Company men

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© 2016 the Historical Associations of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.This article explores emotional and gendered meanings of a series of Chinese clay portrait figures produced in Guangzhou during the 18th century for men associated with the Danish Asiatic Company. It investigates the presentation of emotions and corporate masculine hierarchies in these individual full-length and bust portraits, which combined emotional ideas and repertoires of performance of both Chinese craftsmen and the Company men who commissioned them. These portraits are contextualized with a range of examples made for the English and Dutch East India Company to understand performances of European emotions and masculinities surrounding consumption and display, and to assess them in relation to contemporary Chinese examples to distinguish specifically European sensibilities and cultural codes. It then explores how, on their return to Europe, these portraits enacted emotional and gendered meanings as objects of personal, familial and corporate value that were differently distributed and gifted. The essay concludes that these portraits were calculated investments that employed ‘face-making’; that is, a range of different tropes and traditions of emotional display both within and through these material objects, to differentiate hierarchies of power and modes of strategic action for Company men both individually and corporately.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-474
Number of pages28
JournalScandinavian Journal of History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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