The largest collection of traditional Korean art is housed in the Guimet Museum, located at 6 Place d’Iéna in Paris. This museum was founded by Émile Guimet (1836-1918), an art collector with a deep passion for Asian cultures.

Guimet Museum in Paris, France.

The history of the collection dates back to 1888 when Charles Varat (1842-1893), a French explorer dispatched by the Ministry of Public Education and Fine Arts to Korea for ethnographic and anthropological research. In collaboration with Victor Collin de Plancy (1853-1922), a French diplomat in Seoul, they collected Buddhist and shamanic paintings, sculptures of Buddha or Bodhisattva made from wood, bronze, or cast iron, as well as costumes, masks, and furniture.

Emile Guimet
Charles Varat
Hong Jeong-ou (홍종우, 1850-1913)
“Charles Varat” Mission in Korea.

These items were exhibited at the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro in 1889. Subsequently, in 1893, a Korean gallery was established at the Musée Guimet, thanks to the dedicated efforts of Charles Varat and Hong Jeong-ou (홍종우, 1850-1913), one of the earliest Koreans to visit France. Regrettably, a significant portion of the collection, particularly the furniture, remains in storage due to a shortage of exhibition space.

The Emperor brother and his dancers.
Exhibition of Korean objects of 1889 in Paris, photograph of the husband of his wife and the dancer of the king.
Furniture on display in the Museum.
Korean furniture at Guimet Museum.
Korean collection at Guimet Museum.
Nong. Stacked clothing chest. Mother-of-pearl inlay on black lacquer.
Photo detail of the front door of the Nong.
Soban, small dining table. 18th to early 19th century. H. 26cm, Diameter: 39.cm
Wooden document box, yellow brass fittings. 18th century.
H. 13.cm, W. 53cm
Scholar desk. Gingko wood. H. 35cm, W. 75cm.
Stationary chest. Bamboo. Late 18th century.
H. 31cm ; W. 77cm, D. 24cm.
Pair of three level cabinet. Wood and tortoise shell inlay, yellow brass fittings. H. 91cm, W. 44,5cm, D. 31,5cm.
Low table. 19th century to early 20th century.
H. 45cm, W. 90cm, D. 45cm.
Black lacquered box with yellow brass fittings. 18th to 19th century. H. 32cm, W. 69cm, D. 36cm.
Red lacquered box. Yellow brass fittings. 19th century.
H. 28cm, W. 22cm, D. 22cm.
“Nong” stackable chest decorated with Hwagak or painted horn. Yellow brass fittings. 19th century.
H. 49cm, W. 81.2cm, D. 38,5cm.
Jewelry cabinet. Lacquer on wood with mother-of-pearl. Yellow brass fittings. 19th century.
H. 102cm, W. 40cm, D. 30cm.
Three level cabinet whose central part, made of red wood, is surrounded by two hollowed-out parts. 19th century.
H. 145cm, W. 70cm, D. 45cm.
Korean “Nong”. Black lacquer decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay. Yellow brass fittings. 19th century.
H. 102cm, W. 81cm, D. 41cm.
Bandaji. Elm wood, yellow brass fittings. Probably Gyeonggi province. 19th century. H. 73cm, W. 90.cm, D. 45cm.
Small desk. 18th to 19th century. H. 26cm, W. 64cm. D. 30cm.
Small cabinet. Wood and mother-of-pearl. 18th to 19th century.
H. 50cm, W. 78cm, D. 40cm.


Publication on Korean Art from Guimet Museum.
Publication Charles Varat travels in Korea.

LINK: Varat – Voyage en Coree


After several months of refurbishment, the Korea and Japan rooms are once again open to the public, offering a whole new array of prints, fans, screens, and sculptures.

While a bronze and lacquered wood Buddha mosaic decorates the Japan room, the Korea room features a new showcase, combining Kisan paintings (early 19th-century depictions of everyday Korean life) with scholar’s stones, donated by Min Moung-Chul in 2019.

Starting today at the museum, also discover:

  • A selection of sumptuous fans from the Edo period (1603-1868) in the Japan room.
  • A magnificent twelve-panel screen from the Choson dynasty (1392-1910), on display for the first time at the museum, in the Korea room.

And many other splendors await!

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