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This rich collection focuses mainly on the Joseon period, Korea's last dynasty which lasted over five centuries. However, earlier periods and contemporary works are also represented in a collection that spans over 2,000 years.
The collection features decorative arts and crafts which date mainly from the late Joseon dynasty (1392–1910) to the early 20th century, although it includes earlier pieces, most notably from the Three Kingdoms Period to Late Silla (57 BC – 935 AD).
Ceramic water droppers in the form of a peach with leaves and stem, decorated in underglaze blue and brownish red: Korea, 19th century.
Ceramics are the most significant component representative of developments over several periods of Korean history. Korean ceramics have long been considered the finest in East Asia. The ceramics in the Korean Collection are mostly representative of the Joseon dynasty, including buncheong stoneware from the early Joseon; and white porcelain (baekja) with both underglaze blue and underglaze red painting from the later Joseon.
Earlier wares include celadon ceramics from the Goryeo dynasty, and a range of stoneware pedestal cups and vessels from the earlier Three Kingdoms Period. These come from a number of collectors and sources including Lieutenant-Colonel Kenneth Dingwall (1869–1946), Dr Neil Gordon Munro (1863–1942), and Reverend Stanley T Smith (1876–1954).
Porcellanous stoneware bowl with a red coloured body, and a green-white glaze, with uniform pale blue decoration, with mountain scenery and flying crane in central roundel: Korea, 19th century.
Cup of stoneware, with a high perforated foot, and a hematite covered interior, excavated in Nara Prefecture, Japan: Korea, Three Kingdoms period, 5th - 6th century AD.
Vase of grey stoneware, with an oblate body on a perforated foot: Korean, excavated in Japan, Mino province, Kinsho village, Dolmen period.
Lotus-shaped cup and stand of stoneware, decorated with inlaid designs in white and brown slip under a blue-green glaze: Korea, Goryeo Dynasty, 918 - 1392 AD.
Teabowl of stoneware with incised decoration on exterior of lotus petals, and celadon glaze: Korea, 13th century.
Vase of glazed resonant porcelain, bulbous and hexagonal with a perforated foot, with underglaze blue decoration of a fisherman in a landscape: Korea, 16th-17th century.
Storage jar (hangari) of stoneware, with a stylized fish painted in underglaze iron-brown: Korea, Joseon Dynasty, 18th century.
Vase of porcelain, with an underglaze blue design of a four–clawed dragon pursuing the sacred jewel: Korea, Joseon Dynasty, late 18th to early 19th century.
Jar and cover of porcelain with white glaze, bulbous and tripod, moulded with chrysanthemums in relief, lion-dog knop on cover, broken and repaired with gold lacquer: Korea, 18th century.
Girl's jacket (saekdong jeogori) of striped silk, worn over a long sleeveless dress: Korea, Joseon Dynasty, late 19th century.
Dress and accessories in the collection include several examples of Korea's national dress known as hanbok. Among these are items of costume for both adults and children of both genders, including skirts, jackets, and coats. Accessories include traditional footwear, headgear and purses.
Hat, jeogori (jacket) and trousers, worn by Mrs Davidson Smith as a child and made by her Ama: Korea, 1920s
Gentleman's brimmed hat, or heukrip, made of horsehair, cane and black lacquer: Korea, 1870–1880.
Ceremonial hat, or yanggwan, made of black lacquered card, grass cloth and cane, worn by the emperor's representative at the tomb of ancestors: Korea, 1880-1910.
Royal courier's hat (jeonrip) made of cow-hair with a chin-band of beads, a peacock feather and red cord: Korea.
Coat (durumagi) of white ramie fabric, an outer robe worn by men: Korea, 20th century AD.
Pair of child's twine shoes: Korea, 1890-1905.
Set of 32 chessmen of wood, coloured red and green: Korea, c1900.
The collection features a number of pieces associated with life in late Joseon Korea of the late 19th and 20th centuries. This ranges from tobacco pipes, to playing cards and gaming pieces, fans, a Korean gazetteer, screen paintings on paper, and lacquer ware. The collection includes traditional Korean furniture, for example a brass and iron bound bandaji blanket chests of zelkova wood.
Circular box of brown lacquered wood, inlaid with two dragons in mother-of-pearl (najeon-chilgi): Korea, Joseon Dynasty, early 20th century.
Tobacco-pipe with a metal bowl and mouthpiece, and a cane stem: Korea.
Lidded document box (soryu ham) of black lacquered wood inlaid with mother-of-pearl, with metal mounts and handles: Korea, Joseon Dynasty, late 19th century.
Pack of playing cards: Korea, 1890-1905.
Woman's fan (taegeukseon) made of paper and lacquered wood, with good luck symbol: Korea, 1890-1905.
Large cluster of 99 small brass bells used in shaman ritual of Hwanghae province to call spirits, deliver their words and demonstrate their miraculous virtues: Korea, 1970s.
The 20th century collection was built in part through gift. In 2002 the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism donated pieces illustrative of modern Korean shamanic practice, which remains an important aspect of contemporary Korean life and dates from the 1960s to the late 1990s.
More recent acquisitions of Korean material have focused on work of some of South Korea's leading ceramicists. These include a white porcelain jar by Kim Yikyung (b. 1935), a stoneware jar by Cho Chung-hyun (b. 1940) entitled Summer Willow Greets Autumn, and a bowl from Suku Park's (b. 1947) Winter Series.