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Korean J Art Hist > Volume 300; 2018 > Article
Korean Journal of Art History 2018;300:219-253.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.31065/ahak.300.300.201812.008    Published online December 31, 2018.
17~18세기 공예 蘭畵의 유형과 의미 옥책 내함과 철화·청화백자를 중심으로
강 영 주
문화재청 문화재감정위원
The Types and Meanings of the Orchid Paintings on Craftwork in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: With a Focus on the Inner Cases for Books Made of Jade, White Porcelains with Underglaze Iron-brown Painting and Blue and White Porcelains
Yeong ju Kang
Connoisseur of Cultural Heritage Office of Cultural Properties Appraisal
Received: 7 October 2018   • Revised: 8 October 2018   • Accepted: 11 November 2018
Orchids have been known as the means for self-cultivation for royal families and scholarofficials during the Joseon Dynasty. As such, previous studies about orchid painting mainly focused on ink orchid painting. However, the symbolic meaning of orchid originated in the pre-Qin periods when orchid was a totem. It was much later in Korean history that orchid began to symbolize virtuous men, as it assumed a Confucian value. Its various symbolic meanings were expressed in a variety of ways during the Joseon Dynasty according to the artists and the media they worked with to paint orchid. This article examines the types and meanings of orchid paintings on Joseon craftwork, which was commemorative and practical such as the inner cases for books made of jade, white porcelain with underglaze iron-brown painting, and blue and white porcelain that were commissioned by royal families and scholar-officials. Based on Uigwe: The Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty, the article examines the types of orchid gold paintings, which was royal craftwork, across three different periods: first, the midseventeenth century during the Injo and Hyeonjong periods; second, the late seventeenth century during the Sukjong period; and third, the eighteenth century encompassing the late Sukjong period and the Youngjo and Jeongjo periods. In the first period, orchid gold paintings shared stylistic affinities with orchid paintings by Seonjo and those attributed to Shin Saimdang, showing that there were no clear boundaries between orchid paintings by court painters and literati. During the second period, court painters painted multifarious orchid exercising their artistic creativity and liberty, as they neither had access to orchid paintings that could serve as the models for their paintings and nor had enough knowledge about orchid as a type of plant. In the third period, the iconography of orchid paintings on craftwork became established and distinct from that of scholarofficials. In addition, the orchid gold paintings in the inner cases for books made of jade from this period carried an auspicious meaning as they did in the pre-Qin periods when orchid was believed to have shamanistic power for its function of detoxification. A book about a royal wedding encased in a box painted with orchid perfectly illustrates the point. This ancient symbolic meaning of orchid is clearly distinct from that of the periods after the times of Confucius and Qu Yuan when orchid began to symbolize virtuous mean and royalty. In addition to orchid gold paintings, this article examines orchid paintings on white porcelain with underglaze iron-brown painting and blue and white porcelain that are known to have been produced in the official kilns of Seondong-ri, Songjeong-ri, Sindae-ri, and Geumsa-ri in Gwangju of Gyeonggi Province during the Joseon Dynasty, to illuminate their iconographic and stylistic development and multilayered meanings. The earliest orchid painting on white porcelain is found on the white porcelain shards with underglaze iron-brown painting from the second kiln site of Seondong-ri of the mid-seventeenth century. From the fifth and sixth kiln sites of Songjeongri and the eighteenth kiln site of Sindae-ri that were also active in the mid-seventeenth century, white porcelain shards with orchid paintings were identified as well. The underglaze iron-brown paintings of orchid from this period share strong stylistic affinities with those on the inner cases for books made of jade and those by contemporary scholar-officials. The flowers in these orchid paintings are similar to chrysanthemum, because the court painters did not have access to orchid paintings and nor did they have enough knowledge about the plant of orchid. On the blue and white porcelain shards of Geumsa-ri, on the other hand, orchid paintings became increasingly diverse and distinct from those on the inner cases for books made of jade. Though leaves and flowers of orchid became gradually simplified both in the blue and white porcelain and in the inner cases, the flowers of the orchid paintings on the blue and white porcelain adopted those of various plants such as chrysanthemum and dianthus, diversifying the images of orchid flowers. The brushwork of the orchid paintings on the blue and white porcelain is more spontaneous than that of the royal craftwork, and likely to reflect the taste of scholar-officials, as it became increasingly popular for the scholar-officials to give private commissions to the potters working in the kilns. The orchid paintings that appear along with the various designs and characters symbolizing longevity, fecundity, and begetting a son on white porcelain after the eighteenth century assumed both Confucian symbolic meanings and Daoist functions, such as driving away evil spirits or serving as auspicious signs. In addition, a court painter, who painted orchid on the inner cases for books made of jade, could have also made orchid painting on white porcelain and ink orchid painting upon receiving private commissions, as illustrated by the court painter Pak Dong-bo. To summarize, though orchid paintings on craftwork from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were related to those of royal families and scholar-officials, their styles could vary according to their patrons and recipients. Moreover, they expressed both the ideal, ethical aspiration of being virtuous men and the secular, human desires such as longevity, fecundity, and getting a son.
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