The Department of Asia covers the material and visual cultures of Asia. Our extensive Korean collection highlights a number of ornamental works of celadon as well as Goryeo lacquer and metalwork.

Box (나전모란문흑칠함 螺鈿牧丹文黑漆函). With peony scrolls; metal fittings. Made of lacquered and mother-of-pearl inlaid wood; also metal.

Height: 15.70 centimetres
Length: 18.50 centimetres
Weight: 1.87 kilograms
Width: 18.80 centimetres
Box (나전모란당초문흑칠함 螺鈿牧丹唐草文黑漆函). Made of lacquered wood inlaid with pearl-shell. 17thC-18thC.
Height: 11 centimetres
Length: 37 centimetres
Width: 10.50 centimetres
Box (나전연당초문흑칠상자 螺鈿蓮唐草文黑漆箱子). Lacquered wooden box with inlaid decoration of peony scrolls in mother-of-pearl. 17thC-18thC.
Height: 11.20 centimetres
Length: 31.50 centimetres
Width: 39 centimetres
Box (나전대모칠국당초문반화형합 螺鈿玳瑁漆菊唐草文半花形盒).
Foliate-shaped lacquer cosmetic lidded box, with inlaid decoration of chrysanthemums in mother-of-pearl. 13thC.
Height: 3.00 – 3.40 centimetres
Width: 9.50 centimetres
Case (갓집).
Hat case made of paper, wood, pigment. Late 19thC.
Diameter: 42 centimetres
Height: 20.50 centimetres
Changgi-set (장기판 將棋板); Changgi-board.
Korean chess game comprising board and thirty-two pieces, and a string bag to store the counters. Made of wood and textile.
Late 19thC-early 20thC.
Height: 14.5 centimetres,
Length: 45 centimetres,
Width: 53.20 centimetres.
Table (호족반 虎足盤).
Polygonal table made of wood. 19thC
Height: 33.80 centimetres
Width: 47 centimetres
Pillow (나전수·만자문흑칠퇴침 / 螺鈿壽·卍字文黑漆退枕).
Decorated with auspicious characters. Made of lacquered and mother-of-pearl inlaid wood. 19thC.
Height: 9 centimetres
Length: 23 centimetres
Depth: 9 centimetres
Box (반짇그릇).
Round sewing tray, made of lacquered wood with mother-of-pearl inlaid decoration of fish, waterfall and plum blossom.
Late 19thC-early 20thC.
Diameter: 33 centimetres
Height: 10 centimetres
Photos left and right.
Sutra-holder (나전국당초문경함 螺鈿菊唐草文經函); box
Lacquered wooden box for storing Buddhist sutras. The decoration in mother-of-pearl and silver wire of peony scrolls and stylized chrysanthemum is paralleled by that inlaid on celadons of the same period.
Goryeo Dynasty, 13th century. H. 25,50cm, L. 25cm, : W. 47,50cm.
Lacquered box with mother-of-pearl inlay. Joseon dynasty. 19th century. Height: 53 cm, Length: 66 cm, Width: 37 cm. This trunk was likely used as part of a wedding trousseau. Its size and the decorative motifs continuously extending across all four sides make it particular.


Lacquer box inlaid with peony design
(나전칠모란문상자). Lacquered wood inlaid with shell, turtle shell, and copper wires. Korean inlaid lacquer (najeon chilgi 나전칠기) , crakling technique (tachalbeop 타찰법). 19th century.
H. 42cm, W. 44.8cm, D. 23.5cm
Lacquered wood, with mother-of-pearl inlay. Low slung table with inlaid decoration of rocks, plum blossom and four birds, bordered by landscape scenes including pavilions and equestrian figures. H. 33.5cm, W. 99.7cm, D. 64.5cm.
Clothes chest. Zelkova wood chest with brass fittings including bat-shaped handles, Korean,
Choson dynasty, 1880-1900.
H. 85.2cm, W. 98.5cm, D. 45.7cm.
Stacked Clothes Chest
1890-1910. Red lacquer two-tiered chest on stand with mother-of-pearl inlay and brass hinges. Inlaid wood, lacquer, mother-of-pearl and brass.
H. 136.3cm, W. 84cm, D. 48.5cm.

Lacquered wood, with mother-of-pearl inlay and brass fittings.
H. 3cm, W. 25.2cm, D. 14.7cm.
Mirror box. Lacquered wood, with mother-of-pearl inlay and brass fittings. Mirror box with drawers, made in lacquer inlaid with floral motifs,
Korea, early 20th C.
H. 23cm, W. 19.6cm, D. 29cm.
Three-tiered chest (Sam-cheung jang), early 20th century. Height: 139cm, Width: 112cm, Depth: 41cm
Wood, covered in paper with paper cuts and lacquered. Octagonal box of multi-colored paper made by Korean artist Kim Jin-sun. The bottom part is divided into five compartments, each in a different color. The lid has paper-cut decorations and on the sides the taeguk symbol.

Diameter: 26.3cm, H. 6cm.
The case is made from a piece of wood, which has been hollowed out and covered with green sharkskin and coated with a thin layer of shellac (lacquer melted into thin flakes and used as varnish).
Mirror box, Zelkova and amboyna wood, with brass plates. Joseon Dynasty.
H. 11.5cm, W. 17.8cm, D. 21.2cm.
This is a two-level book cabinet on short legs dating from the end of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). Both tiers are divided by four doors. The lower section panels are solid wood, the upper ones consist of right-angle latticework. It is made of pine and zelkova wood and decorated with iron fittings. A stain or coat of clear lacquer has been applied to the external surfaces.

Pine and zelkova are grown in Korea. Zelkova is a hardwood known for its dramatic grain patterns. This type of furniture, with its plain, restrained design, was thought to be appropriate for a man’s room, while more colourful, lacquered chests were used in a woman’s quarters.
This simplified wooden figure of a duck was made for presentation by a groom to his parents-in-law as the center piece of the Korean marriage ceremony. Ducks and geese were believed to mate for life and the wooden duck would have symbolised the groom’s fidelity. The presentation of a live goose was initially borrowed from Chinese Confucian wedding rituals and the custom survived in Korea long after it had disappeared in China. Over time real geese were substituted with wooden geese and ducks (in Korean, ‘kirogi’), supposedly because it was so difficult to obtain the former.

The detailed rendering of this duck, with the realistic carving of its plumage and the traces of the paint that would originally have covered its entire surface, suggests that it was made for a high-ranking family.
This is a three-tier kitchen cabinet, framed in pine with small zelkova panels dividing the main surfaces. It is composed of a single-level chest on top of a two-tier chest. A central door with iron hinges and lock fittings gives access to each section, all of which have bases. The cabinet stands on short legs, and there are plain aprons below the front and sides of the bottom tier. On the top level, a pair of drawers veneered in zelkova surmounts the door section. Zelkova is a hardwood known for its dramatic grain patterns. Both it and pine are grown in Korea.
Lacquer is the sap from the tree Rhus verniciflua that grows mainly in East Asia. After processing it is applied in many thin layers to a base material. The earliest extant Korean lacquer objects come from a burial site in South Kyongsang Province, dated to the first century BC.
The design on this lacquered box formed by a mother-of-pearl inlay is of vine leaves, grapes and squirrels. The box is reinforced at the corners by brass bars, and it has a hinged lid. The lock plate is engraved with scrolling foliage. It is likely to have contained documents. It dates from the end of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910).
Lacquer is the sap from the tree Rhus verniciflua that grows mainly in East Asia. After processing it is applied in many thin layers to a base material. The earliest extant Korean lacquer objects come from a burial site in South Kyongsang Province, dated to the first century BC.

This red lacquer stacking chest makes lavish use of brass plates and hinges to strengthen and enhance the simple box construction. Various outdoor scenes have been inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The two chests are not joined, they simply sit one on top of the other. They rest on a matching red lacquer stand. Such a stand would have protected the chests from ondol heating, this being the underfloor heating that was, and still is, in use in Korea. Since this chest was designed to be placed against the wall, its back is not decorated.
This is a five-tiered box used to store side dishes. The surface of the box was covered with hemp before being lacquered and decorated with mother-of- pearl inlay. The lid and the four sides of each tier are adorned with peony scrolls including full-bloomed flower heads, acanthus leaves, and vines. They are inlaid in mosaics of thin strips of mother-of-pearl for the vine and in mother-of-pearl cut- outs for the flowers and leaves with details of peony flowers expressed in incised lines. The inside of the lid is embellished with orchid flowers and leaves. Decorations on the rim of each tier and on the four sides of the lid are made with broken pieces of mother-of- pearl. The height of each of the tiers decreases towards the top, and each tier has short legs to make the upper plate stable.
Wooden box with hinged lid, decorated with metal plates and corners, early 20th C. Pear wood box with hinged lid, decorated almost entirely with chased brass plates in the shape of butterflies, tortoises, bats, birds and baskets of flowers. Lock plate and padlock engraved with plum blossom and characters.
Height: 23.5cm
Width: 20cm
Depth: 19.7cm
Hat box & Gat Hat. 1880-1910. Woven horsehair, lacquered bamboo.
Diameter: 26cm
Of brim width: 5,5cm
Height: 11cm. During the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), gentlemen appearing in public always wore appropriate headwear. A hat made of woven horsehair, known as a ‘gat/kat’ (갓), was the distinctive sign of a well-born man, and complemented his outfit of wide trousers, cross-fastened jacket, and long flowing cloak. Its horsehair crown and the brim, made of bamboo strands, are joined together then lacquered. The height of the crown and the diameter of the brim have changed with time, and the gat’s size became smaller after the decree of 1895 prohibiting hair topknots.
관모함 Hat Case. 1880 – 1910. Octogonal wooden box with hinged lid and iron lock plate. Height: 32.9cm
Lid height: 10cm, Width: 9.8cm. This wooden box was used to store the oryanggwan, a gilded lacquer headdress, which was worn by court officials together with the ceremonial ensemble called jobok.
Inlaid decoration on front sliding, lift-out doors consists of geometric key fret pattern, paired birds on the sides and the ten symbols of longevity on the top. The inside is fitted with five drawers and three recesses of carved wood. Carved wood, lacquer, shell and brass. Korean inlaid lacquer (najeon chilgi 나전칠기) , filing technique (jureumjil 줄음질) and cutting technique (kkeuneumjil 끊음질).
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