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Byeongpung | Korean Folding Screens

Popular in Korea, folding screens were created to decorate rooms and for use as a backdrop to enhance the festive mood for special events such as weddings, birthdays and holidays. Adorned with symbolic images with auspicious meaning folding screens have long been loved; and more recently become a study subject among art historians, who see them essential in understanding Korean art and culture of the late Joseon period.

Eight-panel Sipjangsaengdo Folding Screen, Korea, 19th/20th century, (Lot 531, estimate $1,200-1,500)

Skinner offers four Korean multi-panel folding screens from the 19th and 20th centuries in the September 14, 2018, Asian Works of Art auction in Boston.  

Six-panel Gosainmuldo Folding Screen illustrates six legendary Chinese figures highly admired in Korea for their respectful conduct and dignity in leading a hermit life over the pursuit of worldly success and corrupt political careers. Perhaps for this reason, Gosainmuldo screens were popular among Korean literati, yearning to escape from political dilemmas and wishing for a sequestered life. The screen was bequeathed to the present owner by his father; a US diplomat posted to Korea in the late 1950s.

Eight-panel Sipjangsaengdo Folding Screen depicts the ten symbols of longevity—sun, mountain, water, rock, cloud, crane, deer, turtle, pine, and yeongji mushroom. Expressed in vivid colors against a continuous landscape in bright blue, green and gold it presents a spectacular vista of the Daoist Shangri-La where nothing perishes. The King occasionally commissioned this type of Sipjangsaengdo screen as a gift to an important subject on the New Year’s day; used on special occasions such as a royal banquet or significant birthday or anniversary. 

Eight-panel Hyojemunjado Folding Screen decorated with the eight Confucian virtues—hyo (filial piety), je (brotherly love), chung (loyalty), sin (trust), ye (propriety), ui (duty), yeom (integrity), and chi (humility). The characters are intermingled with symbolic flora and fauna in a simplified and stylized manner rendering the text not easily legible.  This type of munjado screen in ink is likely to be placed in a study or a child’s room to remind the occupant of the Confucian codes of behavior, as it was in a room of the present owner—a scholar of Korean Studies in Massachusetts, who lived in Korea for an extended period.

Eight-panel Horyeopdo Folding Screen depicts a Manchurian hunting scene, with mounted hunters chasing a variety of animals. The influential court painter Kim Hongdo (b. 1745) visited Qing China where hunting drills may have inspired him, and his style likely widely copied by later artists. A  charming element is a pictorial realism peppered with humor; a horse-rider desperately grabbing a deer’s hind legs and a tiger bravely standing on its hind legs to face the spear drawn to it, to list a few.

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