Red-lacquered and Mother-of-pearl-inlaid Furniture Owned by Empress Sunjeong-hyo : Wardrobe with Mirror

Jingap KimAround 1930

Seokdang Museum of Dong-A University

Seokdang Museum of Dong-A University
Busan, South Korea

This Mother-of-pearl-inlaid wardrobe is presumably owned by the Empress Sunjeong-hyo, the last empress of the Joseon Dynasty, due to its period and the Red-lacquered furniture only for royal family in the palaces. Excluding the bed, the wardrobe essentially follows the traditional forms, but differences in the spacing of the different sections as well as use of nontraditional patterns make them feel modern. Hints of the adoption and integration of Western furniture can be seen in the wardrobe’s streamlined dainty legs and the presence of a bed. Patterns found on furniture prior to the modern period focused on expression of good fortune in daily life. This trend, however, weakened in the modern period. In its place, patterns capturing the mundane elements of nature, such as flowers, birds and insects; or works from famous painters were used. Realistic portrayals could be produced using the newly introduced small fret saw technique. Instead of wishing for good fortune, the patterns became more valued for their aesthetic value, which is the real worth of modern craftsmanship and this red-lacquered furniture set is a prime example.

On the top and bottom respectively on the left and right side panels of the Wardrobe with the Mirror are reproduced the paintings of Bamboo by Kim Gyujin 金圭鎭 (1868-1933) and Plum Blossoms by Yu Unhong 劉運弘 (1797-1859). On the panels below the doors of the front are arranged peonies and the Four Gentlemen. The placement of the patterns of the peony and the Four Gentlemen on the small panels below the doors, as well as the use of the fret saw technique of carving patterns on mother-of-pearl plaques, that allows the delicate carving of leaf veins, so delicately as are an important characteristic of early modern mother-of-pearl craftsmanship.

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  • Title: Red-lacquered and Mother-of-pearl-inlaid Furniture Owned by Empress Sunjeong-hyo : Wardrobe with Mirror
  • Creator: Jingap Kim
  • Date: Around 1930
  • Physical Dimensions: w115 x h195.8 x d54.5 cm
  • Provenance: Seokdang Museum of Dong-A University
  • Type: Mother-of-pearl, Red lacquer, Paulownia, Nickel