|MATTEO RICCI (利瑪竇）(1552-1610)
The Zicawei portrait of the great Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci depicts him
facing slightly to the right and dressed in the peculiar Ming costume which
he adopted as part of his efforts to integrate himself into the life of
a traditional scholar at the Chinese court. The artist has surrounded Ricci
with some "attributes", partly as decoration, perhaps, and partly
to indicate his status or talents. Some of the objects depicted are shared
with the Du Halde portrait (see below) while some are unique to the Zicawei
At the left we see a peddle-powered organ, something more likely modeled after an object at the orphanage than one with any direct relation to Ricci at the Ming court. Ricci holds a folding fan in his right hand.
On the right of Ricci is a Chinese-style table with books bound and cased in the Chinese style, a potted landscape (盆景)
and a globe or small armillary sphere which, along with the brass-colored
triangle to the right of it, likely references the Jesuit involvement with
astronomy at the court while also indicating "the world" as both
a venue for the dominion of Christ and the mission work of the Jesuits.
There is a paper under the base of the globe which hangs down over the
edge of the table.
The wall behind Ricci holds a portrait of a Western-style Madonna and Child
flanked by a pair of couplets in Chinese which read as follows (the four
characters in brackets are extrapolations for those behind Ricci's head based
on the meaning of the rest of the text):
A plausible translation would be:
Bowing heads, (let us) venerate Her Majesty, Mother of God.
The Son Become Man through the Maiden, for all time.
Filled with the Holy Spirit [the Consecrated Lord conveys His Father's mercy to the universe]
Turning His Head and to cast His compassionate eye on Eve's children.
(A complete transcription and translation of the inscription are forthcoming.)
The Du Halde Portrait: Similarities and Differences
The 1736 edition of the Description géographique, historique, chronologique, politique, et physique de l'empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie chinoise (Vol.3) by Jean-Baptiste Du Halde shows Ricci facing towards the left rather than the right and while it depicts Ricci's unusual Chinese headgear the engraver appears to have opted for dressing Ricci in a more or less conventional clerical robe of the time.
The Chinese style books on the table in the Zicawei painting are replaced in Du Halde by Western-bound volumes on what appears to be an altar, while the paper is now not under a globe but under some books, and appears to have printing or writing on it. The crucifix on the table in Du Halde is not reproduced by the Zicawei artist. The IHS on the altar cloth is the so-called "Christogram", or abbreviation of the Greek for "Jesus" (IHΣOYΣ) which also forms part of the seal of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits.)