NONG – 이층농

“ICH’UNG NONG”
Mid 19th century. Gyeonggi province. This chest consists of two identical storage units. Each unit is made of pine, with a center door made from zelkova (a variety of elm that grows in southern Korea). The brass plate at the center of each door is a stylized representation of the magic pulloch’o fungus (a symbol of longevity). Cabinets like these were used by upper-class families to store items such as seasonal clothing for long periods of time.
H. 109,9cm, W. 80,5cm, D. 39,5cm.
Collection Museum of Art Philadelphia. USA.

Nong- 이층농 in Korean is used to define a stackable clothing chest. The name has been used since the Goryeo Dynasty. Nong originally did not have legs, but later on, a leg part, called madae (馬臺), was attached to it.

In the beginning, Korean furniture tended to be small, light, and plain, with minimal decoration such as carvings or paint.

In a traditional Korean house, rooms were small, and ceilings were low. Korean people sat on the floor to take advantage of the floor heating system called “ondol“.

In the “Hanok” (Korean traditional house) during the Joseon dynasty, three types of clothing chests were used. The “Bandaji”, the “Jang” and the “Nong”.

The “Nong“, a two-unit stacked chest, features a slender frame and is constructed with thin wooden panels, making it convenient to move thanks to its side handles. Sometimes referred to as “Jang Nong”, this piece of furniture always consists of two identical box units stacked on top of each other on a stand. The term “Nong” is also known as an “Ich’ung nong“, where “I” signifies two and “ch’ung” indicates level. Each level of the nong has double center doors. Generally, the two boxes that make up the nong are identical and can be interchanged as the top and bottom, with the stand being removable in such cases. Some nong also feature small drawers across the upper compartment.

Paulownia wood, which is lightweight and resistant to moths, was primarily used as the main material, but black persimmon and zelkova woods were also frequently utilized.

In the late Joseon Dynasty, nongs were used for travel or transportation and therefore had handles on both sides.

“Nong”. Simple chest built with two identical boxes placed on top of each other. Small doors on each level. Most of the time, note the absence of drawers on the top. “Nong” appears before the “Jang” in the 19th century.

Older pieces were very simple, with minimal decoration and metalwork. The metalwork was primarily used to reinforce the frail structure. The attached photos show examples of these early pieces. These simple and plain items were typically used in men’s quarters, known as the “Sarangbang“.

“ICH’UNG NONG”
Two units stacked chest, Paulownia wood, iron fittings. Oil finish. Legs restored. Mid 19th century. Gyeonggi province.
H. 112cm, W. 77cm, D. 39cm.

Collection: “ANTIKASIA”.
“ICH’UNG NONG”
Two units stacked chest, Paulownia wood, iron fittings. Oil finish. Legs restored. Mid 19th century.. Gyeonggi province.
H. 112cm, W. 77cm, D. 39cm.
This illustration shows you how the box were placed on top of each other
. Collection “ANTIKASIA”

“ICH’UNG NONG”. Black lacquer with mother-of-pear inlay. Yellow brass fittings.

H. 92cm, W. 85cm, D. 38,5cm. Legs missing. Collection: Seoul Museum of History.

In the beginning, Nong had very simple designs with minimal decoration and were primarily used in poor households and men’s quarters. In the mid to late 19th century, their production increased, and their designs were modified.

“ICH’UNG NONG”
Two units stacked chest,
Bamboo inlay on wood, yellow brass fittings. Late Joseon dynasty.
Collection: Duksung Women’s University Museum.
The surface of the front of this piece has been crafted by inlaying small pieces of bamboo in a mosaic pattern. The tortoiseshell pattern is clearly visible on the front of the double doors.

“ICH’UNG NONG”
Two units stacked chest, Pear & paulownia wood, yellow brass fittings.
H. 116cm, W. 72cm, D. 38cm. Gyeonggi Do province. Photos courtesy of INDIGO Antiques.

Pieces became larger in size and more decorated. They became a common chest in the women’s quarters, known as the “Anchae“. Some were painted, covered with skin, or paper, and highly prized woods were also used. By the late 19th century, the use of inlays such as mother of pearl increased. The attached photos in this post illustrate these modifications.

WOOD IS BEAUTIFUL

Initially, attention was devoted to the beauty of the wood grain, with wood itself serving as the primary decorative element.

NONG.
Pinewood body (top, sides & back), Pearwood doors frame, Elm wood roots doors panels. Yellow brass fittings.
Late 19th century. Gyeonggi province.
H. 105cm, W. 85cm, D. 40cm.
Collection “ANTIKASIA“.
NONG.
Bamboo slat on wood, yellow brass fittings, oil finish. Early 20th century.
H. 93cm, W. 75cm, D. 40cm.
NONG
Pine and elm wood. Iron fittings.
H 100cm, W. 75cm, D. 38cm.
NONG.
Pine and ash wood, Yellow brass fittings. Early 20th century.
H. 110cm, W. 80cm, D. 38cm.
NONG.
Pine, paulownia and elm wood, yellow brass fittings.
H. 127cm, W. 90cm, D. 41cm.
Collection National Museum of Korea.
NONG.
Pine and persimmon wood, Yellow brass fittings. Early 20th century. H. 130cm, W. 92cm, D. 40cm.
Two tiered chest with mother-of-pearl turtle pattern. H. 11cm, W. 76,8cm, D. 37cm. 19th century. Collection Sookmyung Women’s University Museum, Seoul, Korea.
NONG. Elm wood, yellow brass fittings. 125cm x 87,5cm x 42cm.
Private collection.
Small Nong. Private collection in Korea.
NONG
Pine, persimmon wood, yellow brass fittings, oil finish.
H 130cm, W. 85cm, D. 40cm.
NONG.
Paulownia and pine wood body, ash wood front panels, zelkova wood frame, persimmon wood inlaid,
yellow brass fittings. Early 19th century. Gyeonggi province
H. 123cm, W. 80cm, D. 39cm.
Collection “ANTIKASIA”
NONG.
Pine wood with a center door made from zelkova.
Yellow brass fittings. 19th century.
H. 110cm, W. 80,5cm, D. 39,5cm.
Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
NONG.
Pine and persimmon wood. White brass fittings.
Late 19th century.
H. 121,5cm, W. 82cm, D. 38cm.
Photo courtesy of Koreanart 21 Auction House, Seoul, Korea.
NONG.
Fine Korean Nong. Zelkova wood, yellow brass fittings. H. 123cm, W. 82cm, D, 42cm.
Private collection in Korea.
NONG.
Unidentified wood, yellow brass fittings.

H. 120cm, W. 85cm, D. 43cm.
Private collection in Korea.

Nong.
H. 98,9cm, W. 50,5cm, D. 40cm.
Collection: National Museum of Korea. Seoul.
Nong.
H. 81cm, W. 41cm, D. 33,4cm.
Collection: Andong City Folk Museum, Korea.
Korean “Nong”. Stackable clothing chest.
Persimmon wood. Yellow brass fittings.
Late 19th c to early 20th century.
Height 128cm, length 79,3cm, width 41cm.
Collection: Daegu University Central Museum. Korea.
Nong. H. 117,7cm, W. 81,3cm, D. 40,5cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
Nong. H. 121cm, W. 84cm, D. 43cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
Nong. H. 131cm, W. 81,7cm, D. 40,2cm.
Elm & pine wood, yellow brass fittings. Late Joseon dynasty.
Collection: Dong-A University Seokdang Museum, Seoul.
Nong. H. 135cm, W. 81cm, D. 40cm.
Persimmon & pine wood, yellow brass fittings. Late Joseon dynasty.
Collection: Jeju National Museum

ABUNDANCE OF METAL

In some cases, hinges and metal decorations take precedence.

Pyongyang two level chest (Nong). Walnut wood, white brass fittings.
H. 162cm, W. 83cm, D. 44cm.
Collection: Old Story Antique Furniture, Korea.

The ten symbols of longevity are carved throughout. You can see patterns of birds, trees, and animals engraved on brass fittings.
Korean Nong. H. 135cm, W. 86cm, D. 37,5cm. Collection Bupyeong History Museum, Korea.
NONG.
Elm wood, white brass fittings.
20th century.
H. 107cm, W. 66cm, D. 35cm.
NONG.
Linden wood, white brass fittings. Late 19th century. Pyongyang city.

Pyongan Do province.
H. 138cm, W. 82cm, D. 45cm. Former Collection “ANTIKASIA”
NONG. Elm wood, white brass fittings. 20th century.
H. 125cm, W. 80cm, D. 42cm.
Private collection.
NONG.
Zelkova wood, white brass fittings. legs on both pieces have been added to allow to use the boxes separately.
NONG. Elm wood, yellow brass fittings. Gyeongsang Do province.
Nong. H. 131cm, W. 74,7cm, D. 36cm. Collection: Daegu University Central Museum, Korea.
Nong. H. 99cm, W. 62,4cm, D. 33cm. Collection: Miribeol Folk Museum. Korea.
Nong. Masan area, Gyeongsang Do province. H. 136cm, W. 86cm, D. 44,4cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum. Korea.

LACQUER IS A MUST

Black or colored lacquer is a main element in the finishing of the furniture.

NONG.
Red lacquer on wood (probably paulownia wood), yellow brass fittings. Gyeonggi Province, Korea.
Mid 19th century.
H. 134 cm, W. 74 cm, D. 40 cm.
Very unusual red lacquered chest. The red lacquer is a mixture of cinnabar and iron oxide pigments. The metalwork on this piece for an upper-class women’s quarter (anbang) displays forms considered to be symbols of felicity and joy. The decorative pullers are bats, and the hinges and locks are butterflies
.
NONG
Red lacquer on wood. Yellow brass fittings. Gyeonggi province.
H. 70cm, W. 83cm, D. 40cm.
Collection: Weisman Museum of Art. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
NONG
Lacquered wood, with mother-of-pearl inlay.
H. 142,1cm, W. 83,9cm, D. 38cm. Collection Victoria and Albert Museum. London. UK
NONG
Lacquer on wood with tortoise shell inlay.
H. 143,5cm, W. 82cm, D. 46,2cm.
Photo courtesy K Auction Korea.
Nong. Red lacquer on wood, yellow brass fittings. probably displayed in a women’s quarter.
H. 130cm, W. 70cm, D. 35cm.
Collection: National Palace Museum, Seoul, Korea.
Nong. Black & red lacquer on wood, white brass fittings. Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.

THE ART OF INLAYING

The Koreans used a very old technique of inlaying mother of pearl or tortoise shell.

NONG
Two section lacquered chest on stand decorated with images of dragons and phoenix, inlaid with tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl, and shagreen.
Late 19th, early 20th century.
H. 116,8cm, W. 79,3cm, D. 40 cm.
Detail top of the Nong.
Close up of the lacquer and inlay on the Nong.

NONG.
The front of the chest is inlaid with mother-of-pearl (except for the back), and the upper and lower parts have the doors which are decorated with the same design.
19th century.
Collection Korean National Maritime Museum.
NONG.
Paulownia wood. Doors inlaid with mother pf pearl. Yellow brass design. 19th century. Collection Korean National Museum.
NONG.
Red lacquer and mother of pearl inlay.
Late 19th century. Collection Victoria and Albert Museum.
Red lacquer was strictly confined to royal usage but became more widely available in the 20th century.
NONG. Red lacquer and mother-of-pearl inlaid. Late 19th century.
H. 148cm, W. 77cm, D. 43 cm. Collection: Musées royaux d’art et d’histoire. Belgium.
NONG
Paulownia wood covered with a black lacquer. Mother of pear and tortoise shell inlay representing a dragon facing a phoenix.
Private Collection.
NONG. Red lacquer on wood. Mother-of-pearl inlay depicting various auspicious motifs.
Yellow brass fittings.
H. 120cm, W. 80cm, D. 40cm.
Mother-of-pearl Nong.
H. 132cm, W. 78cm, D. 44cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Korea,
Mother-of-pearl Nong. Side view.
Nong. Black lacquer inlay with mother-of-pearl. Side view.
Nong. Black lacquer inlay with mother-of-pearl. Side view.
Korean Nong. Black lacquer with mother-of-pearl inlay. Late 19th century. Collection: Busan Metropolitan City Museum, Korea.
Korean Nong. H. 129,7cm, W. 80cm, D. 39cm. Collection: National Folk Museum, Korea.
This Nong or stackable chest is covered with tortoise shell inlay, a technique used for various items as a high-end decorative material in the Joseon Dynasty.
As mentioned by “Daemojang“, the director of the Folklore Museum, judging by the shape of the hinge, the age does not seem to be very old. Probably dating from the first half of the 20th century. This chest could have been made for the royal family.
Collection: National Museum of Korea.
NONG.
Geometrical mother of pearl inlaid black lacquer cabinet. Yellow brass fittings in the shape of butterflies.
19th to 20th century. H. 79cm, W. 116cm, D. 39cm.
Sold by Christie’s in 2020.
Back of the chest ornate with inlay bamboo and plum blossom.
NONG.
Two-tier Clothing Chest with Tortoise Shell Design in Mother-of-pearl Inlay.
Each door is adorned with a stylized Chinese character representing “Longevity”.
The “Taegeuk” motif is display on the locks over a central flower design lock plate.

Fine yellow brass fittings in the “swallowtail” design.
Black lacquer on pine wood. H. 114,7cm.

Dated early 20th century.
Collection “Ewha” Woman’s University, Seoul, Korea.
A black “Najeon” (lacquerware inlaid with mother-of-pearl) clothing chest, which was gifted by King Gojong to Emperor Nicholas II of Russia for his coronation ceremony in 1896, will be revealed for the first time in 127 years at a special exhibit organized at the Kremlin Museums in Moscow on February 2023.
Side view of the black “Najeon” clothing chest.
Nong. Covered with painted horn.
Collection Musee Guimet, Paris, France.
나전 대모 이층농
Pair of Nong covered with mother-of-pearl and wire inlay.
H. 133cm, W. 154cm, D. 38cm.
Collection National Museum of Korea.
Nong covered with black lacquer & mother-of-pearl, tortoise shell inlay.
H. 156cm, W. 79cm, D. 42cm.
Collection: Kyungwoon Museum, Gyeonggi Do. Korea.

SHAGREEN, “GALUCHAT”, OR PAPER ON WOOD

Furniture is completely or partially covered with leather or traditional paper.

NONG
Antique shagreen stacking cabinet. 19th century.
H. 93cm, L. 61cm, D. 36cm.
Beige & green shagreen inlay signs of double happiness on the doors.
Private Collection.
NONG.
Two-level stacked chest covered with shagreen. Each section fitted with two doors and brass escutcheons, hinges and brackets.

H. 44,5cm. Joseon dynasty, 19th century.
Sold by Christie’s, New York. October 23, 2022.
NONG.
Two-level stacked chest covered with paper.
Colored paper on pine wood, iron fittings
H. 86,4cm, W. 52cm, D. 26cm.
DATE after 1910. Collection: Weisman Museum of Art. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
NONG.
Two-level stacked chest covered with paper.
Oiled paper, pine, iron fittings
H. 85cm, W. 70cm, D. 37cm. DATE circa 1900.

Collection Weisman Museum of Art. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Nong covered with paper. H. 113cm, W. 82cm, D. 35cm. Collection: Gimhae Folk Museum, Korea.

Unique piece covered with embroidery.

Nong with embroidered panels. Korea, 19th century.

This embroidered chest is said to have been produced for the “garye” (wedding) of Queen Sunwon, who was the wife of Sunjo, the 23rd king of the Joseon dynasty. The ten traditional symbols of longevity were embroidered on the door, and on the lower part of the chest, lotus flower and mandarin duck designs were embroidered to wish the couple happiness and many children.

Collection: Sookmyung Women’s University Museum, Seoul. Korea.

CONTEMPORARY PIECES

The reinvented tradition.

호접몽 ( Dream of Butterfly ), 2019.
Steel, Aluminum, Acrylic. H. 127cm, W. 92cm, D. 44cm. Artist: Kim Honey.
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