In Grand Style: Celebrations in Korean Art During the Joseon Dynasty

Royal Throne, 1800-1900, Korea, Joseon dynasty (1392-1910)Lacquer and gold on wood, metal. 39 3/8 x 53 1/8 x 24 inches. National Palace Museum of Korea. Photo courtesy of National Museum of Korea.

THIS EXHIBITION OF Korean Art during the Joseon dynasty is the first major US exhibition to explore the colourfully choreographed ceremonies of Korea’s Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). The legacy of this dynasty, amongst the world’s longest, continues to resonate in Korean culture today. On show are important objects (several officially designated as Korean Treasures by the country’s Cultural Heritage Administration) that bring to life the grand festivals when milestones like birthdays and weddings were celebrated with elaborate rites that sometimes involved thousands of participants and continued for days. Dance, music, and procession all had parts in the joyous festivities, while exacting rules were prescribed that governed even the placement of dishes at a banquet table.
The careful, detailed organisation of extensive events marking political appointments, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and other occasions in Joseon society sprang from the Confucian principle that ritual and order are the foundations of a stable, peaceful civilisation. Through 115 artworks, In Grand Style explores what it meant to be a king during the Joseon dynasty; royal processions and banquets; the power of women at court; and the lives and celebrations of the Joseon people. Highlights include an ornate palanquin – measuring more than 8 feet long – used for carrying a king or queen; a book of praise for King Taejo, made entirely of jade and inscribed with gold; a 150-feet-long handscroll depicting King Jeongjo’s famous procession to his father’s tomb; a royal throne; as well as kings’ and queens’ seals and protocol books with paintings of royal banquets, ceremonial robes and furniture.
This is the 10th anniversary of the museum at its Civic Center location. ‘In 2003 the museum opened with a show about Korea’s Goryeo dynasty. Ten years later, through this exhibition focusing on the succeeding Joseon dynasty, we celebrate our first decade at the Civic Center, we celebrate the marvellous arts of Korea, and ultimately we celebrate the art of celebration itself,’ commented Jay Xu, Director of the Asian Art Museum.


From 25 October to 12 January 2014 at the The Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, The museum is the only venue for the exhibition. Catalogue available.