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4. Joseon Dynasty Royal Quiver and Bowcase Dong-gae

( ID: cc1253 )

Bowcase length: 32 cm

Bowcase width: 17 cm

Bowcase weight: 8.4 oz

Quiver length: 18 cm

Quiver width: 12 cm

Quiver weight: 5.8 oz

Price on request

Archery in Korea has a long and storied history. Korea has long been considered the land of archers, and children began to be trained in archery as soon as they could hold a bow and pull the bowstring. While most Korean arms are simple and non-ornamental in design, the same applying to Korean bows or gakgung, some of the finest ornamental, quality workmanship can be found on Korean royal sibok (quiver) and gungdae (bowcase), called dong-gae as a set (Seoul Arts Center).

The dong-gae we have on offer displays the highest level of quality and workmanship that was applied to Korean royal archery equipment. Made in the open style to have been used on horseback, the condition of the set is exceptional with almost no losses to the decoration composed of a set of twenty o-dang (Korean black bronze) and gilded fittings. The fittings depict auspicious creatures, including two images of fish and waves, and are very similar in form and type of decoration, through the use of o-dang and the green and red color scheme (and use of red felt) to Cat. Nr. 3 that it is possible that they formed a unified set of parade arms for a royal officer.

Dong-gae were made in two sizes, those used in battle and those that formed part of the royal court uniform; this set representing the latter. Institutional collections in the United States and Korea have examples of dong-gae of various materials and states of preservation. The Metropolitan Museum (Acc. Nr. 36.25.2576a, b) has a dong-gae with similar fittings to our example but with damage and losses to the fittings. Likewise, the fittings are not of the same quality found on this set. Other dong-gae can be found in the Korea University Museum, Korea Army Museum, and Yeonse University Museum though the extant published dong-gae in those collections are of lesser quality with less elaborate fittings (Seoul Arts Center). Another grouping including a complete dong-gae attributed to a trainer of the Geumwiyeong troops is at the GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig (2013: cat. nrs. 1167-1170). The closest corollary example is in the Grayson Collection (Grayson et al. 2007) at the University of Missouri Anthropological Museum (Acc. Nr. MAC 1991-0871), which has a full royal parade set that that features identical fittings, though much worn, and with patent leather instead of the green velvet that forms the background color for this set. Finally, the Smithsonian Institution (Acc. Nrs. 151147 and 153147) has, as part of its large collection of Korean arms and armor, a full dong-gae set acquired by W.W. Rockhill, the famous American anthropologist most known for his expeditions to Tibet and his Open Door Policy to China. The description for that set is below and sheds light on how it would have been worn:

Ornamental bow and bow-case (Hwal hwal-jip). Bow, Tatars hape, lacquered bamboo, wrapped at middle with strips of bright colored wool. String, of cotton; case, of leather heavily lacquered; one side curved to lit the bow; decorated with silver disks and rings. Collected by W. W. Rockhill. Clasped under the left shoulder according to the old custom by officers in uniform. Used only for ornament, and with it is carried the holder containing arrows. Arrow-holder and blank arrows (Dong ga). Holder made of Japanese leather ornamented with silver disks and sewed along edges with colored silk. Arrows of lacquered bamboo with broad white feathering. Ko points. Collected by W. W. Rockhill. Worn by the king and officers at the procession beneath the left arm pit. Carried also by officers who receive military orders from the king.

Most importantly, this set has important provenance allowing for a near exact date of acquisition in Korea. The set belonged to Fernand Berteaux, French Vice-Consul in late Qing China serving from 1895-1915, who was instrumental in orchestrating France’s intervention during the Boxer Rebellion. In "A chronological index" of events in the late Joseon Korea, he and his wife are recorded as having visited Seoul on June 4, 1902 (Allen 1904), which allows us to precisely date when he would have been most likely to have acquired this set. As the French Vice-Consul to China, he would have been afforded a royal audience and likely presented with this and other important objects. It is known that he had also received a full Korean military officers uniform with a coat and helmet decorated with dragons and phoenixes.

Provenance:

Fernand Berteaux, French Vice-consul, Imperial China (1895-1915). Acquired circa 1902

References:

Allen, H.N. (1904). Korea, fact and fancy: being a republication of two books entitled "Korean tales" and "A chronological index". Seoul: Methodist Publishing House

GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig (2013) . Korean Art Collection. GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig: Leipzig

Grayson, C., French, M., and O’Brien, M.J. (2007). Traditional Archery from Six Continents: The Charles E. Grayson Collection. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press

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