Artist / Author / Cartographer:

Miller, Milton


Mandarin and Son




albumen print


27.5 x 20 cm


Albumen studio portrait showing a Chinese man dressed as a mandarin, seated, with his son standing beside him in a casual pose.Photograph a little creased in places with three repaired holes and a small closed tear. Miller's signature in the negative lower left corner, separate caption torn with a little loss. No date. (circa 1861). Number in pencil verso, suggesting a later printing (c.1875) by the Afong studio.

American photographer Milton Miller spent only a relatively short period of time in East Asia (1859 - 1863) but even so he established a name for his portraits of Chinese officials, businessmen and their families. His memorable images are important and Miller's place in the history of photography is recognised by Terry Bennett (History of Photography in China 1842-1860). "Milton Miller was arguably the best portrait photographer in nineteenth-century China. His subjects are never stilted and he tried to tease out the personality of each sitter - often succeeding with such intense immediacy that for a moment or two the intervening 150 years melt away, leaving us feeling wholly engaged, slightly unnerved." An accurate description one feels when viewing this photograph of a Mandarin and Son.

However Wu Hung argues that Milton Miller's famous portraits were not all they seemed. On investigating Milton Miller's images carefully, Professor Wu has found that many of the sitters appear not only in a number of photographs but as members of different official ranks, something that would have been inconceivable in Qing China. Rather than being accurate portraits of the Chinese well-to-do of late Qing China as these photographs were believed to be, photographs such as this are examples of a new style of portraiture that is neither Chinese nor Western. Rather they are a fascinating mixture of "local visual norms, Western expectations, and the photographers personal ambitions in a hybrid form". A form of portraiture which has had a wide and long influence on perceptions of China in the West. (Inventing a "Chinese Portrait Style in Early Photography. The Case of Milton Miller" - Wu Hung published in "Brush & Shutter". Getty 2011.)


This photograph was one of the most prized possessions in the Arthur Hacker Collection.



From the collection of the late Arthur Hacker, Artist, Historian and writer.


Hacker, Arthur   China Illustrated, Western Views of the Middle Kingdom. Tuttle 2004, Introduction Page 11.


Item Code: