Yi Dynasty, circa 1870
Elm wood, iron fittings
Cheon Chu City, Korea
33½” h. 40¾” w. 19” d.
This chest was made for a scholar of the elite class because of the two narrow drawers at the top, for him to hold small personal or writing items. It has thick hand-carved ironwork with Buddhist symbols. Iron was preferred by Confucius-time scholars for its quiet strength, and the simple form without too much unnecessary decorations is favored for its dignity and grace. The thick metal gives the design a feeling of “sculptured bodies” and projects a “sense” of material the Korean craftsmen of yore are so famous for. The chest rests on a raised base with short inward curving legs attached to side foot stretchers
It is worthwhile to know that in Yi period, Cheon Chu City was where the land-owning Yangban class gathered to prepare to take an open Imperial Examination, the passing of which guaranteed upward mobility. This class could afford to commission high quality furniture for their elegant homes.
This chest is certified by a Professor of Korean History and Antiquity who was responsible for many antique pieces placed in museums.