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

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.

This wardrobes has a landscape carved using mother-of-pearl on its two-level doors, which is taken from Geumggangsan Mountain painted by the modern painter Yi Doyeong 李道榮 (1884-1933). The style name (K. ho 號) of Yi Doyeong, Gwanjae 貫齋, as well as the names of the places, “the Nine Dragon Pond at Geumgangsan Mountain” (K. Geumgangsan guryongyeon 金剛山九龍淵) and “the Cliff of Three Immortals at the Cliffs of Myriad Configurations” (K. Manmulsang samseonam 萬物相三仙岩) that were written on the paintings in his calligraphy are also copied on the wardrobe’s left and right doors.

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  • Title: Red-lacquered and Mother-of-pearl-inlaid Furniture Owned by Empress Sunjeong-hyo : Wardrobe
  • Creator: Jingap Kim
  • Date: Around 1930
  • Physical Dimensions: w110.5 x h196 x d54.5 cm
  • Provenance: Seokdang Museum of Dong-A University
  • Type: Mother-of-pearl, Red lacquer, Paulownia, Nickel