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Reading desk with motif of the Ten Symbols of Longevity
십장생 무늬 책상
Place of Origin: Korea
Date: 1750-1850
Historical Period: Joseon dynasty (1392-1910)
Materials: Lacquered wood with inlaid mother-of-pearl
Dimensions: H. 10 1/2 in x W. 21 1/2 in x D. 11 in, H. 26.7 cm x W. 54.6 cm x D. 27.9 cm
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Department: Korean Art
Collection: Decorative Arts
Object Number: 2016.37
On Display: No

Description

Label:

In traditional Korean art, the symbols depicted on this table, known as the “Ten Symbols of Longevity,” embodied a person’s desire for a long and prosperous life: the sun, moon, clouds, mountains and rocks, water, pine trees, bamboo, the elixir plant, deer, and cranes. The ten symbols are framed by a peony border. Peony motifs symbolized fortune and prosperity (as seen in other examples throughout this exhibition), and thereby complemented the ten longevity symbols. Not only were mother-of-pearl lacquer artisans and painters fond of this subject, but members of the Joseon dynasty court and upper class particularly favored it as well. The Ten Symbols of Longevity were most commonly depicted prominently on large folding screens and displayed during special events such as weddings and birthday celebrations. Some of the symbols also appear on the surfaces of ceramics.

The designs on the surface of the desk are highly pictorial and natural, as if they were painted by a brush. This effect was made possible by the precision and craftsmanship of the artisans. For example, extremely thin and small pieces of mother-of-pearl were applied to portray the details of the deers’ bodies in a realistic manner.

This desk is identical in size and design to another extant in Korea. The two identical desks suggest the existence of lacquerware workshops, and the possibility that artisans of the Joseon dynasty possessed various pattern manuals in order to mass produce a large number of objects with matching designs.


More Information

Exhibition History: "Mother-of-Pearl Lacquerware from Korea", Asian Art Museum (04/29/16 - 10/23/16)
Label:

In traditional Korean art, the symbols depicted on this table, known as the “Ten Symbols of Longevity,” embodied a person’s desire for a long and prosperous life: the sun, moon, clouds, mountains and rocks, water, pine trees, bamboo, the elixir plant, deer, and cranes. The ten symbols are framed by a peony border. Peony motifs symbolized fortune and prosperity (as seen in other examples throughout this exhibition), and thereby complemented the ten longevity symbols. Not only were mother-of-pearl lacquer artisans and painters fond of this subject, but members of the Joseon dynasty court and upper class particularly favored it as well. The Ten Symbols of Longevity were most commonly depicted prominently on large folding screens and displayed during special events such as weddings and birthday celebrations. Some of the symbols also appear on the surfaces of ceramics.

The designs on the surface of the desk are highly pictorial and natural, as if they were painted by a brush. This effect was made possible by the precision and craftsmanship of the artisans. For example, extremely thin and small pieces of mother-of-pearl were applied to portray the details of the deers’ bodies in a realistic manner.

This desk is identical in size and design to another extant in Korea. The two identical desks suggest the existence of lacquerware workshops, and the possibility that artisans of the Joseon dynasty possessed various pattern manuals in order to mass produce a large number of objects with matching designs.


Exhibition History: "Mother-of-Pearl Lacquerware from Korea", Asian Art Museum (04/29/16 - 10/23/16)