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Hidden Jewels

Korean Art from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection

July 3, 2004–January 9, 2005

This exhibition in the Arts of Korea gallery presents thirty-six Korean paintings, ceramics, lacquerware, and sculpture dating primarily to the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910) from the Collection of Mary Griggs Burke. Renowned for her collection of Japanese art, Mary Burke has also assembled a small but splendid selection of Korean art. Many of these pieces make their public debut in this exhibition.

Among the masterpieces in the exhibition is an ink painting of bamboo by Yi Chŏng (1541–1622). Yi was a premier literati artist of his time and a descendant of Chosŏn's "renaissance king," Sejong (r. 1418–50), whose reign is credited with important cultural developments, including the invention of hangŭl, the Korean alphabet. Another of the extraordinary works on view is a painting on silk called Shakyamuni Buddha Triad (1565), one of a handful surviving from an original set of four hundred scrolls. Sponsored by a member of the royal family, this Buddhist painting exemplifies the importance of the religion to the rulers of the early Chosŏn dynasty, despite the official state policy of promoting Confucianism and suppressing Buddhism.

Also highlighted are a handsome gilt-wood sculpture of a Seated Bodhisattva from the mid-Chosŏn period and nineteenth-century blue-and-white porcelains, whose vibrant painted images capture the modern spirit of late Chosŏn art. Examples of the celebrated green-glazed celadon ware of the Koryŏ dynasty (918–1392) and a nineteenth-century eight-fold screen Lotus Flowers and Birds are also on view.

Simultaneously on view in the Arts of Japan galleries are eighteen new works from Mary Burke's superb collection—including Japanese sculpture, paintings, screens, lacquerware, and ceramics dating from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century—as well as twenty-five contemporary Japanese ceramics.