Elaborate screen paintings capture hope for a blessed life

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Elaborate screen paintings capture hope for a blessed life


“Guo Ziyi’s Enjoyment-of-Life Banquet” (part of the National Palace Museum of Korea’s collection) was often used for auspicious occasions. [OVERSEAS KOREAN CULTURAL HERITAGE FOUNDATION]

In ancient times, screen paintings were similar to photography or even cinematography of the present time.

They capture a moment, even depicting the smallest details like a person’s facial expression. They often even give onlookers a comprehensive view of people’s lives from an ideal (and even unrealistic) vantage point, for instance a bird’s eye view.

In 2014, the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation purchased a screen painting from the 19th century titled “Guo Ziyi’s Enjoyment-of-Life Banquet” from Christie’s for $4,800. The painting is currently part of the collection of the National Palace Museum of Korea.

Guo Ziyi (697-781) was a Chinese general who served four successive emperors of China’s Tang Dynasty (618-907). For his service, he was given an honorary title and other rewards by Emperor Ming Huang (685-762) and lived comfortably until he died at 84.

His life, as a result, was something that the people of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) hoped to emulate.

“The ‘Guo Ziyi’s Enjoyment-of-Life Banquet’ painting depicts a banquet that took place during the retirement years of Guo Ziyi, who lived a long life in prosperity and honor,” Yeo Hee-gyeong of the foundation’s international cooperation division said. “So the screen painting was often used in auspicious royal occasions in the latter part of the Joseon Dynasty.”

At an exhibition that began in December at the National Palace Museum of Korea, visitors can enjoy the painting, plus two other “Guo Ziyi’s Enjoyment-of-Life Banquet” paintings that flew from the U.S.

One is part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection and is dated between the late 18th century and early 19th century; while the other is owned by the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas and dated to the 19th century.

Both have gone through conservation work financed by the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation recently. In addition to identifying and bringing back Korea’s cultural heritage items kept overseas, the foundation also finances preservation and restoration work on the artifacts.

“This marks the first time that three paintings will be shown together at an exhibition,” the foundation said through a press release. “After the special exhibition, the two paintings [of Philadelphia Museum of Art and Spencer Museum of Art] will be going back to the U.S.”

BY KIM HYUNG-EUN [hkim@joongang.co.kr]

The exhibition runs until Feb. 5. Admission is free. Hours are between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. for weekdays and 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. for the weekends and holidays.

The museum is located inside the grounds of Gyeongbok Palace in downtown Seoul. For more information, call (02) 3701-7500 or visit www.gogung.co.kr.
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