Lacquer box with mother-of-pearl inlay
Early Choson dynasty, 17th century AD
During the Choson dynasty (1392-1910), lacquer was used predominantly on boxes and furniture for domestic use by the aristocracy. Chests, low tables, clothes boxes, cosmetic cases, document boxes and sewing utensils were all decorated with lacquer and inlaid with mother-of-pearl, tortoise-shell and sometimes sharkskin. This box is inlaid with mother-of-pearl in a pattern of peony scrolls.
Lacquer, made from the juice of the sumac tree, is very difficult to work with, as it does not dry in a normal atmosphere, but in a special room with extremely high humidity. It also causes severe skin irritation, to which the lacquer craftsmen only eventually develops an immunity.
J. Portal, Korea - art and archaeology (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)