Ca.1860, zelkova for frame, paulownia for drawers, original iron fittings; Cheon Ra Buk Do Province. 37″w, 10″d, 56.5″h.
Authentic Korean medicine cabinets are some of the most sought-after furniture by medical art institutions in the world as not many survived the Korean wars. The front of this piece is in very good condition, with yellow color painted Chinese characters indicating the name of herbal medicine stored inside each drawer, but the back panel shows some tears and old rice paper lining torn due to wear and tear from age. Chinese characters were used in many Korean chests as the Yi dynasty elite class paid homage to China.
The sliding panels on top has the “Ginseng” and “Deer Horn” Chinese characters painted on them. Behind the panels a shelf divides the space. All the drawers are divided inside. The small drawers brass pulls are in the shape of a pomegranate and those on the big drawers are double-hook handles. This kind of medicine cabinet would usually be seen in a doctor’s home although some wealthy families would have their own medicine chests.
This cabinet is certified by an antiques scholar approved by the Korean government in the 1900s. According to him, all antique medicine cabinets are valuable as not many survived the Korean War, and not many were made in Korea even before the war. This piece might be held back for auction and priceless at present.