Manufacture and Date of a Goryeo dynasty Sutra Box with Mother-of-pearl Inlaid Decoration at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Nanhee Lee; Menno Fitski;


Studies in Conservation, Routledge, Volume 63, Number 3, p.163-170 (2018)


ABSTRACTCurrently, about ten Goryeo dynasty (918–1392 CE) sutra boxes are preserved in museums in Korea, Japan, the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. This article is the result of an examination of a sutra box in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (hereafter ‘Rijksmuseum sutra box’), which was first introduced to a European audience in the Transactions and Proceedings of the Japanese Society, in 1913–1914. The Rijksmuseum sutra box differs from other Goryeo sutra boxes. With its altered structure and modified motifs, this box bears significant value, not only for the research of thirteenth-century Goryeo mother-of-pearl art, but also for the study of cross-cultural adaptations in East Asian lacquer art. This article investigates the date of manufacture of the sutra box by analysing the manufacturing techniques and its various original and modified parts. For this, an X-ray radiograph was carried out for the first time. As a result, discoveries have been made regarding the structure and decoration of the lower part, which has been modified and is different from Goryeo mother-of-pearl sutra boxes. Finally, this paper reconsiders conservation and repair of Goryeo sutra boxes, as illuminated by an understanding of the original and repaired parts of this box.