The Oriental Museum’s Korean collection is not large, numbering just under 700 objects. It is however varied both in terms of dating and content.
The oldest objects within the collection date back to the United Silla dynasty. Notable objects include fine celadon-type glazed stonewares of the Koryo Dynasty, some undecorated and others featuring underglaze sanggam decoration. In addition there are bronze mirrors of the Koryo period, and from the Chosen dynasty there are musical instruments, textiles and costume, gaming pieces, coins, weapons, furniture and prints.
The collection includes a significant donation from the Right Reverend Richard Rutt, who first travelled to Korea as an Anglican missionary in 1954. Rutt remained in Korea for almost 20 years, serving as Arch-Deacon of West Seoul from 1965, before becoming Assistant Bishop and then Bishop of the Diocese of Taejon, an area covering several provinces of South Korea. During his time in Korea, Rutt developed a keen interested in the culture and literature of the country and published widely on these subjects in both Korean and English.
Other items come from the collection of Dr Henry de Laszlo. Born in Budapest in 1901 and educated in England and Switzerland, Dr de Laszlo began collecting in 1941 after a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He feared that the Second World War would result in the destruction of many of the kinds of objects he had seen during that visit and resolved to play his part in preserving what he could. His collection of objects - ranging from Chinese Han Dynasty farm models to bronzes from the Luristan region of Iran - included some very fine Korean ceramic vessels.
These historic collections have recently been supplemented by targeted purchases of contemporary Korean material including ceramics, textiles and K-pop ephemera. These purchases have been made possible through the support of Art Fund, the Friends of the Oriental Museum and Stories of the World (part of the Cultural Olympiad for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, supported by the Arts Council for England).
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