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Wrapping cloth

Wrapping cloth

  • Place of origin:

    Korea (made)

  • Date:

    1800-1900 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plain weave hemp with a polychrome painted design

  • Museum number:

    FE.156-1983

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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This wrapping cloth is made of natural-coloured plain weave with a polychrome painted design. The cloth is made up of three loom widths seamed together, each width being 35.5 cm across. Popular among commoners and royals alike, wrapping cloths (pojagi in Korean) were used to wrap gifts, to cover food, to wrap and store bedding quilts and for many other purposes. They were made in different sizes, patterns and materials, including cotton, silk, ramie and hemp. An item wrapped or covered in a beautiful pojagi signified its importance and showed respect towards the receiver. Special events, such as weddings, therefore necessitated new pojagi to be made. This was especially the case at the court when on royal birthdays, New Year’s Day and other important occasions cloth was presented to each royal household for making clothes and shoes. At such times, the gifts were wrapped in different types of pojagi depending on the shapes and sizes of each item.

Physical description

Wrapping cloth of natural-coloured plain weave hemp with a polychrome painted design. The cloth is made up of three loom widths seamed together, each width being 35.5 cm across.
The painted design consists of a circular central medallion with confronting phoenixes. The rest of the cloth is marked off in a square grid pattern, each of the squares containing a Buddhist motif. There is a brown scroll border with a red funghi design in each corner. Across the corners are marks where the ties were sewn. The cloth is unlined.
Cloths such as these, called 'tang chae' (lit. Chinese paint), are believed to have been used at court.

Place of Origin

Korea (made)

Date

1800-1900 (made)

Artist/maker

unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

Plain weave hemp with a polychrome painted design

Dimensions

Height: 107 cm, Width: 107 cm

Object history note

Purchased. Registered File number 1983/2216.

In the register a paper, written by Charlotte Horlyck, Curator of Korean Art at the Victoria & Albert Museum for The National Museum of Korea Newspaper states that:
‘One of the most interesting textilic items in the collection is a square painted pojagi decorated with floral and auspicious symbols. Measuring 107 cm by 107 cm, the cloth is of natural-coloured plain-weave hemp and made up of three loom widths stitched together, each width being 35.5 cm. Surrounding the central roundel are twelve squares decorated with five different kinds of kilsangmun painted in the primary colours of red, blue and yellow, and secondary colours of pink, light blue and green. Painted poljagi like this one are usually called tangch’aebo. They were produced at the court and seem to have been made specifically for royal wedding ceremonies. The motifs on the V&A’s poljagi supports this as they all refer to long life, happiness, health and peace.
As is typical of tangch’aebo, the most conspicuous motif is the central one of two phoenixes facing one another, this being a design, which also appears on wedding garments. The kilsangmun which surround the birds were popular auspicious motifs during the Chosôn period when they were used on a wide range of different artefacts, including lacquer and metalwares. The propitious message of the poljagi is further accentuated by the fruits and flowers, such as peony, pomegranates, peaches and pul su, which appear in the surrounding twenty squares. The peony, for example, has traditionally been a sign of abundance and prosperity, while the plentiful seeds of the pomegranate have made it a symbol of bountiful offspring. In the four corners are squares with grasses and yongji, symbolising longevity and immortality.’

Historical context note

In the register a paper, written by Charlotte Horlyck, Curator of Korean Art at the Victoria & Albert Museum for The National Museum of Korea Newspaper states that:
‘Most poljagi were made by sewing scraps of fabric together, these being called chogakpo. Various materials were used, including silk, cotton, hemp, and ramie, but chogakpo are generally stitched together of the same kind of fabric, though different fineness of weaving is not uncommon. It is interesting that pieces of men’s and women’s clothes were never sewn together, which clearly reflects how men and women lived in separate quarters as prescribed by the strict Confucian rules of propriety which governed society at this time.
The earliest surviving poljagi dates to the late 11th century, thus testifying to a long and unbroken tradition of making and using these items in Korea. In the Chosôn period they developed into a highly expressive art form, culminating in works that have continued to fascinate and inspire people even today. A large number of exhibitions featuring poljagi have been held in Western museums, including the V&A, and their strong designs and bold colour combinations have made them among the most well known and popular Korean art objects in the West.’

From Kim, Soo Kyung, A Study of Poljagi (Korean Wrapping Cloths) in the Late Chosôn Dynasty (1724-1910), unpublished PhD thesis, New York University, 1997, p.115:
'Fourteen inmunbo [painted poljagi made for the court] are preseved in the Royal Museum (Seoul), a direct royal inheritance from the Chosôn dynasty (table 14). The Museum of Korean Embroidery (Seoul) has several more, and the researcher has confirmed that some are also preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) and Suk Joo-sun Memorial Museum of Folk Art in Tanguk University.'
(This volume is in the FED library 4AJ30).

Descriptive line

Wrapping cloth, plain weave hemp with a polychrome painted design, Korea, Chosôn period, 19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Wilkinson, Liz, Birds, Bats & Butterflies in Korean Art, Singapore: Sun Tree, 1996 pp.20-21.
McKillop, Beth, Korean Art and Design: The Samsung Gallery of Korean Art, London: V&A Publications, 1992, pp.144-145, plate 65.
Horlyck, Charlotte, 'Colour in Korean Textiles' in Arts of Asia vol.33 no.2, 2003, pp.110-117 plate 10

Materials

Hemp

Techniques

Painting; Plain weave

Subjects depicted

Floral patterns; Phoenix birds; Fruits

Categories

Textiles

Collection code

EAS

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Qr_O22296
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