VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Medicine cabinet
GPM-5129
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This style of medicine cabinet shows the characteristics of medicine cabinets in Gyeonggi Province. This medicine cabinet is about 200 years old. As furniture ages, its surface gets darker. To prevent insects from eating furniture, humidity needs to be controlled or oil needs to be applied to the surface. Antique furniture is priced according to its year of production, shape and rarity. Because of the nature of wood, existing antique furniture is most likely less than 200 years old. The frame and top plate of this medicine cabinet is made of pine tree, and the side plate, back plate, and drawers are made of paulownia wood. It has 115 drawers in the upper part and a parted door in the lower part. The handles of the drawers, which are in eight rows and in columns, were decorated with abalone. This piece of handicraft is unique and exclusive in style. It is presumed that this medicine chest was used in the court because the designs are so elaborate.

History of the Object
This medicine cabinet has many drawers where traditional oriental medicines were stored. Natural ingredients such as leaves and roots were used for a single treatment which required large drawers. Each drawer stored one or two types of ingredients. The drawer was sometimes used to measure the amount of ingredients. Large medicine cabinets had shutters that could be locked for securing the more powerful medicines. During the Joseon Dynasty, owning furniture was a privilege. Common people owned only bandaji, or a box-shaped chest, which was often used to store clothes. Furniture such as sabang takja (display chest), mungap (stationery chest) and yakjang (medicine cabinet) belonged only to aristocrats. Before industrialization, furniture was custom-made. The most notable distinction of traditional furniture, compared with modern furniture, is the use of nails and glue. Wooden panels and frames used the tongue-and-groove method instead of nails. Because of the characteristics of wood, it contracts in hot and dry air and swells in humid air. Glue was not used in joining panels. Another big difference was that different types of wood were used to make a single piece of furniture, unlike modern furniture. Most commonly, zelkova wood plates were used for a facade for furniture because its texture was considered beautiful.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
wood, metal, shell 
Measurements
Width 30.8 Height 162 Length 108.8  
Creator name
unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Korea 
Geography
Korea 
Time period
AD 18th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
18th Century -19th Century 
Function
Medicine Chest 
Acquisition
Acquired in 2002 by the Gyeonggi Provincial Museum from Kim, Mi Ra, an art dealer 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Gyeonggi Provincial Museum 
Museum
Gyeonggi Provincial Museum 
Credit line
 

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