Horim Museum organized <brilliant hues: mother of pearl of the joseon dynasty> for 2015’s first special exhibition. This exhibition presents the highlights of Joseon Dynasty woodworking. It centres around lacquerware inlaid with mother of pearl, while also presenting other forms of woodcraft made using materials such as hawksbill shells, ox horn sheets and natural red paint.
The idiosyncratic aesthetics of Korea is well reflected in its crafts. Their beauty comes not onlyfrom from but also from pattern, color, ornament.Lacquerware inlaid with mother of pearl and ox horn sheets are fine examples of delicately rendered patterns and colors. Mother of pearl’s natural bril-liance and richness of color is pertinent after a thousand years. They have been made since the Goryeo Dynasty and is widely loved still to this day. Those inlaid with ox horn sheets were popular amongst women for their soft and graceful atmosphere. Due to the complex making process and natural limitation of material, there are not many surviving. Lacquerware inlaid with mother of pearl and ox horn sheets are materials different in texture but common in that they both decorate a wooden surface. They also bear witness to their times through various iterations of patterns. I hope this special exhibition serves as a meaningful opportunity where the beauty of mother of pearl and ox horn sheet lacquerware could be appreciated.
Finally, I would like to thank institutions as well as individuals for generously lending such precious pieces for this special exhibition.
Inlaying mother of pearl
Mother of pearl was an essential material in traditional woodworking. It would have been cut according to a pattern and then attached or inlaid on to the surface of an object. Such methods were in use since the Goryeo Dynasty up until now, and hence its prestige and popularity. The carefully carved out patterns vary from concise, stylized patterns to intricate, painterly ones. On display are pieces from the mid to late Joseon Dynasty, when traditional techniques from the Goryeo Dynasty and the early Joseon Dynasty were successfully continued and developed. It was also a time when mother of pearl became more prevalent and decorative techniques and materials more diverse.
Layers of hues / Adding colour
The formal basis for Joseon Dynasty woodworking are natural textures of wood and proportional stability. Designed with diverse colors and decorative techniques, they present a complicated world of forms. Whereas mother of pearl used to be imposed upon a black or a red surface, those painted using natural red paint were mainly made for the royal family. The calm shade of red is authoritative but at the same time very deep. Hawksbill shells and shark skin were more uncommon materials, which were used not on their own but as supplements to mother of pearl. Thin ox horn sheets were also used, but more for women for their soft and graceful atmosphere.