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Royal Banquet

A folding screen from Korea commemorates an imperial feast
April 22, 2016

Royal Banquet for Celebration of the 40th Birthday and 30-Year Rule of King Sunjo 1829. Korea, Joseon dynasty. Eight-panel folding screen, ink and colors on silk; 149.5 x 415 cm. Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea

On loan from the Leeum, the Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, this eight-panel folding screen is one of the finest surviving 19th-century banquet paintings. Crown Prince Hyomyeong (18091830), who loved music and dance, orchestrated elaborate programs for a royal festival in celebration of his father King Sunjo’s 40th birthday and 30th year of reign, and he commissioned screens to commemorate the event. Made in multiple copies, such screens were given to banquet attendees as a token of royal grace.

The first panel (starting from the right-hand side of the screen) conveys a series of poems composed by court officials in response to the crown prince’s poem that was first recited during a state feast in honor of the king. A formal feast for male court members is rendered across the next three panels, while panels five to seven depict a more private and intimate banquet reserved for the king and royal family members. The last panel bears a list of eight court officials who prepared and executed these celebratory events, along with a short note indicating when the screen was created.

Throughout the royal festival, a variety of music and dance performances took place. The dances performed during the informal banquet are portrayed on the lower half of the third panel from the left. Symbolizing a farewell to royal guests, the Boating Party Dance—in which 29 dancers marched around a colorfully decorated miniature boat—was chosen as the festival’s finale. Although the dances were performed sequentially, on the picture plane they appear to be taking place all at once. The concept of time and its logic was sacrificed in favor of amplifying the painting’s bustling atmosphere.



Cleveland Art, May/June 2016