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16th century mother-of-pearl-inlay stationery box donated to National Museum of KoreaBy Kim Hae-yeon
Published : Jan. 11, 2023 - 14:11
A 16th century mother-of-pearl inlay lacquered floral stationery box and cover from the Joseon era was donated to the National Museum of Korea on Wednesday by the Young Friends of the Museum which purchased the piece at a Sotheby's auction late last year.
Young Friends of the Museum is a group of young entrepreneurs who sponsor and promote Korean culture and arts. Established in 2008, the group bought and donated a Goryeo-era Buddhist relic to the museum in 2018.
Finely inlaid with mother-of-pearl, the stationery box measuring 31 centimeters in length, 46 centimeters in width and 13.4 centimeters in height shows outstanding characteristics of Joseon era lacquerware. The texture of larger pieces of shell are enhanced by inducing a pattern of cracks before inlay, as seen in the blossoms and leaves. The cracks also highlight the shimmering iridescence of the mother-of-pearl.
"We found out that a private collector in Japan had bought the piece at a Christie's (auction) some 30 years ago and had kept it until he died several years ago," Shin Seong-soo, Friends of NMK's Relics Collection Committee head, said during a press conference held at the NMK on Wednesday.
At the time, Christie's had a three-page description which said that the piece was from Japan's Ouchi family who requested the piece from Joseon, according to Shin.
Japan's Ouchi family ruled over the western part of Honshu from the 14th to 16th centuries and had strong influence in trade throughout the East Asian region over the 15th and 16th centuries.
According to the museum, only four pieces of such mother-of-pearl inlay lacquered boxes from the Joseon-era survive today, two of which are currently at the National Museum of Korea, including the newly donated piece.
The latest donation is stylistically related to a writing box held in the Tokyo National Museum, also from the 16th century Joseon, with a comparable treatment of flowers, buds, and leaves. The box and its associated lacquer writing set has been designated Japan's Important Cultural Property.
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