screen overall with mounting, flat Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2014.198
Title
Books and Scholars' Accoutrements (Ch’aekkŏri)
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
screen, painting
Date
early 20th century
Places
Creation Place: East Asia, Korea
Period
Chosŏn dynasty to Modern period
Culture
Korean
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/351449
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Eight-panel folding screen; ink and color on silk
Dimensions
each painting: H. 121.5 x W. 27.8 cm (47 13/16 x 10 15/16 in.)
full screen, including mounting: H. 199 x W. 330.4 cm (78 3/8 x 130 1/16 in.)
Provenance
Private Collection, Los Angeles (by late 1960s-ca. 2000), sold; to Private Collection, New York (ca. 2000-2011), sold; to [Kang Collection, New York (2011-2014)], sold; to Harvard Art Museums, 2014.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Acquired with a fund established by Ernest B. and Helen Pratt Dane for the purchase of Asian art and through the generosity of the Ralph C. Marcove International Understanding Through Arts and Crafts Foundation, Inc. and Christina Marcove
Accession Year
2014
Object Number
2014.198
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
Stylized depictions of books, writing utensils, ancient bronzes and ceramics, flower and fruit arrangements, and several other items associated with the noble Confucian scholar are arrayed among the eight individual, vertically oriented paintings that comprise this tall folding screen. Each panel of the screen contains a composition of two slightly angled stacks of Chinese-style bound books surrounded by a variety of scholarly paraphernalia, including antique vessels, spectacles with an accompanying case, and so-called “Four Friends of the Scholar – a calligraphy brush, ink stick, inkstone, and rolls of paper. Painted in ink and bright colors on a plain, colorless silk ground, some objects appear to be floating in space, whereas others appear to rest atop the stacks of books, which provide the overall composition some semblance of three-dimensional space.

A well-known Confucian subject known in Korean as Ch’aekkŏri, or “books and things,” such paintings are still-life compositions of items with which the ideal Confucian scholar surrounded himself in his studio. Although the subject originated in China, by the late eighteenth century the royal court in Korea began to commission Ch’aekkŏri paintings to display behind desks in men’s quarters. In the nineteenth century such paintings became widely popular decorative items among the gentry class, for these paintings conveyed an air of dignity, luxury, and reverence for scholarship. They were also used in the households of commoners who appreciated, but usually could not afford, the luxury goods illustrated in the paintings. The essential elements of any Ch’aekkŏri painting are the scholar’s items, but as the theme became popularized, fruits, flowers, and other objects symbolic of prosperity, fecundity, and longevity made their way into the compositions. Ch’aekkŏri thus also functioned as talismans, since they promoted virtue and harmony in the household, just as the practice of Confucian moral conduct by persons of all classes was believed to ensure harmony in the state.
Exhibition History

32Q: 2600 East Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/01/2016 - 06/09/2017

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu