Bronze Kundika, silver-inlaid with Willow and Water Fowl Design
- Place of origin:
- Materials and Techniques:
Bronze, inlaid with silver wire
- Credit Line:
Given by Ernest A. Brooks
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Korea, Room 47g, case 10
This bronze bottle inlaid with silver wire is one of the treasures of the V&A’s collection of Korean art. It was donated to the museum in 1926 by the daughter of the American collector, Earnest A. Brooks, from Long Island. The donation numbered 256 bronzes, mainly Chinese wares of the 12th-18th century. Initially it was believed that also this bottle was Chinese, but it is unlikely that any collector today would fail to recognise it as being Korean.
The bottle measures 25cm in height and has a long neck and spreading lip. Its body is ovoid and has a ring foot. The design reflects Koryo craftsmanship at its best in the way in which it covers the surface in a delicate and harmonious fashion. On the neck are cloud scrolls and two cranes with ribbons in their bills. A band with 19 circles separates the cloud and crane motif from the main motif seen on the body of the vessel. Below this band are 27 lotus petals, while an abstract cloud pattern covers the shoulders. The main design consists of four elliptical medallions, each filled with a different image. The one illustrated here shows a small figure, holding a willow branch, standing underneath a willow tree. On its right is a medallion with reeds on a bank with grasses and water. The medallion on its left features a flowering tree and a mandarin duck. On the fourth medallion are a flowering plum tree and a duck among grasses. Also the foot rim has been decorated with a scroll motif. The symmetric arrangement and skillful inlaid design suggests that it is dated to the 12th century.
To make the inlaid design, a pattern was first incised in the bronze. Silver wire was then hammered into the depression, leaving the surface entirely smooth. With the passage of time the surface has turned an attractive warm bronze colour. The patterns seen on this bottle are similar to those on other bronze bottles and kundika of the mid-Koryo period.
Willow trees, flowering trees and ducks were also popular motifs on Koryo celadons, especially during the 12th century. This emphasises how craftsmen working in different media influenced each other technically and artistically. Inlaid decoration on metal wares continued to be used also during the Choson period, but during this time the decoration appears comparatively less fluent and delicate.
The bottle has a long neck and a spreading lip. The silver inlay is exquisite, and the distinctive willow and waterfowl motif dates the piece. Ovoid body, ring foot. The silver inlaid pattern of willow and figure in an ogee is surrounded by scrolls, canopy and cloud designs, as well as cranes in flight.
Colour: Brown, silver
A wide curved shoulder is placed on a globular body, with a straight long neck ending with a largely flared-out rim. This is the most typical shape of a Goryeo kundika without a side spout. Various designs are inlaid on its surface, a method that prevailed during the Goryeo era. In the space formed by triple-line diamond frames, ducks and water plants, willows and a boy, reeds and a pond, and ducks and flowers are inlaid with silver. Between the four diamond frames, cloud designs suggesting yeongji (Ch. lengzhi) mushrooms decorate the lower part of the kundika at regular interval. The shoulder is embellished with a ruyi design, and the neck's base is adorned with a double-circle band and a double-layered lotus petal band, separated by incised lines. On the neck, two cranes flying in the cloud are silver-inlaid in fine lines. The foot is short and slightly everted, which gives a sense of stability. A raised line appears where the foot meets the body. The foot is decorated with a scroll design and bears a trace of repair.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Bronze, inlaid with silver wire
Height: 24.4 cm, Diameter: 6.2 cm Mouth, Diameter: 7.8 cm Base, Diameter: 12.1 cm Widest
Met, Korea, vess/cont/holders
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Korean Art and Design.
Oriental Art in the V&A.
London: Scala/V&A/Philip Wilson,
Sir John Figgess.
"Korean art in the United Kingdom. Part 1. The collections of Oxford and London..
London: Korean Culture, vol.6, no.2,
p.14, plate 17..
National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage
Korean Art Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum<#caret>
Daejeon: National Research Institue of Cultural Heritage
Duck; Lotus petal; Mushroom; Waterfowl; Cloud; Trees, Willow; Crane; Boy; Reed; Flowers
East Asia Collection