4

Stacked Clothes Chest

1890-1910

Joseon dynasty

During most of the Choson dynasty (1392-1910) strict sumptuary laws limited the use of red lacquer by the royal household. By the 1890s, however, these rules lapsed and customers of non-royal descent were able to order lavishly decorated red lacquerwares. This chest, used for storing clothes, is inlaid with auspicious motifs in mother-of-pearl, featuring on the front phoenixes, cranes and pheasants among foliage. The metal fittings are in the form of butterflies, stylised flowers and lucky emblems, made of an alloy of nickel, copper and zinc known as paktong. The two sections are not joined but simply rest on each other. Underfloor heating was popular in Korea, then as well as now, and the stand protected the chests from the heat.

From the Victoria and Albert Museum.