Ca 1870, chestnut wood with iron fittings, Pyongyang City.
24¼” h. 30” w. 15¼” d.
Made in what is now North Korea, this chest was taken from the north to south before the start of the Korean War. It is a fine example of an authentic North Korean antique chest made in the by-gone days. It was solidly built from expensive chestnut wood and has unusually thick ironwork not easily found in North or South Korea today. The combination shows the chest was made for someone of the elite class.
The thick ironwork has openwork designs beautifully wrought with typical North Korean designs. Various auspicious motifs were used. The lock, in the shape of an elephant trunk, is mounted on a round, heavily hand-wrought openwork lock-plate with interlocking curves and angular patterns. This round plate represents a Taoist design symbolizing heaven and earth. The butterfly-motif pull-plates with the swastika design in the middle signify harmony and long life. This butterfly motif, with a stylized Chinese ‘long life” symbol in the middle, is shown on the top part of a middle hinge to a drop-leaf door. On either side of this hinge is an elongated vertical openwork metal hinge in a design very typical of hinges on North Korean chests. The big half-round iron-pull attached to bat-design plates towards the bottom of the chest signifies good fortune and happiness. These beautiful symbolic designs are scattered throughout the front of the chest.
This chest, with such intricately hand-wrought openwork designs, illustrates what beautiful work North Korean furniture craftsmen could produce. It is very rare today to find an authentic Northern Korean antque chest outside the country. This beautiful piece is a treasure to collect. It is certified by a Korean Professor of Korean History and Antiquity.