August 18, 2017

Munjado Screens in Joseon Korea

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This Munjado screen, presented by Kang Collection in their Korean Works of Art sale represents how culture and religion came together to influence the production of art in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The eight panels that make up this Munjado screen are representative of the eight virtues of Confucian morality that spread throughout Korea during this period. The panels represent 1) filial piety (hyo), 2) brotherly love (che), 3) loyalty (ch’ung), 4) trust (shin),5) proprietary (yae), 6) righteousness or justice (ŭi), 7) modesty or integrity (yŏm), and 8) sensitivity or the feeling of shame (chi). Known as the three bonds and five relationships, they each took 8 different pictorial forms and adorned the same number of panels typical of Korean screens during the period. In this example of a 19th century Munjado screen, depictions of symbolic animals, birds, fish, plants, and objects were substituted for certain strokes of the ideographs, for example, a fish and a bamboo shoot in place of the four brushstrokes, comprising the upper half of the character for “Filial Piety,” or a pair of birds in place of the two upper brushstrokes of the character for “Righteousness.” 

The images are represented in bright and vivid color but the calligraphy that beautifully adorns them should not be overlooked. Originally the scholars of Korea wrote in Chinese characters while the Korean phonetic alphabet known as Hangui was reserved for the women and lower classes. Because of this many of the inscriptions on paintings that were created during the Joseon Dynasty are exclusively in Chinese characters. In fact, the admiration and respect that Koreans had for Chinese can still be seen today as modern Korean is a mixture of Chinese and Hangui characters. While the virtues for which the ideographs stand were Confucian, the symbolism of the pictorial embellishment was Taoist. Of Chinese origin, Munjado screens were found in the home of almost every middle- to upper-class Korean family. The Munjado screen pictured is now live in the iGavel Interiors: Korean Works of Art Auction presented by Kang Collection

‍To view this lot click here