This miniature sedan had long poles running through the holes in the base so it could be carried on the shoulders of footmen. It mimics the style and shape of palanquins used for transport of aristocratic women, but its small size indicates that it was used in funeral processions. It would have held the spirit of the deceased, as represented by an inscribed tablet. The tablet accompanied the coffin to the burial site, then was taken to the family ancestral shrine, where it was installed and worshipped regularly by surviving family members. As funeral rites became simpler in modern times, these miniature palanquins fell out of favor. Today they are extremely rare.
This bottle has been decorated using the “sgraffito,” or scratching, method: the gray clay body of the vessel was painted with white slip, and then the surface was scraped to reveal the darker surface beneath. It was then covered in transparent celadon glaze, which sealed and protected the decoration. The peony flower was a popular motif in Korean art because it represented wealth and high status.
The original purpose of this exquisite gold ornament is unclear. Based on its size and the way it curves upward, the dragon head may have decorated the end of a hairpin.
Royal tombs near the Silla capital city, Gyeongju, in southeast Korea, have yielded sophisticated gold adornments including crowns and earrings. Elaborate pendants like these were either worn as earrings or suspended from the sides of royal crowns to mimic earrings. Granulation, or small individual gold beads, is applied to the sheathing of the earrings’ upper segment as well as used to outline the individual leaf shape of the gold spangles and lower leaves. The technique is thought to have developed in Mesopotamia around the eighteenth century B.C.E. and then spread through Persia to the Greek and Roman empires, eventually travelling across the great Central Asia trade routes to China and the rest of East Asia. Its diffusion demonstrates the importance of Silk Road trade to East Asian material culture.
By the seventeenth century, porcelain had overtaken stoneware as the ceramic of choice for wealthy Koreans and underglaze brown—once favored for decoration of Buncheong stonewares—enjoyed a brief revival, this time on porcelain vessels. These large, bulbous storage jars were formed by joining two bowls, one inverted on top of the other. The swelling surfaces of the jars give dimension and energy to curvilinear forms, as seen in particular in the swirl of the highly abstracted dragon.
Arts of Korea
Our pioneering collection of Korean art is one of the largest and most important Korean collections in the United States. A selection returns to view in a new gallery three times the size of the previous space and featuring many treasures never before shown. At the center of this state-of-the-art installation are the luminescent celadon ceramics of the Goryeo dynasty. These include a famed ewer in the shape of a lotus bud widely acknowledged to be the finest Korean ceramic in the Western hemisphere. But the riches of the Brooklyn collection—from golden earrings of the Silla kingdom to vibrant costumes, paintings, and furnishings of the Joseon dynasty—show that the sophistication of Korean art stretches far beyond these celebrated green wares.
Following a multiyear renovation of our second floor, the Arts of Korea is the first phase of a major reinstallation of our renowned Arts of Asia and Arts of the Islamic World collections.
This installation of the Brooklyn Museum’s Arts of Korea collection is organized by Joan Cummins, Lisa and Bernard Selz Senior Curator, Asian Art, and Susan L. Beningson, Assistant Curator, Asian Art.
The reinstallation of the Korea collection was made possible by three generous grants from the National Museum of Korea.