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Diplomacy and Objects in European collections of Korean Art(i)facts

Celadons and Export paintings

Chrysanthemum motif decorative celadon bowl, Goryeo period (11th century)


Funded by:

Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation


Universität Hamburg, Germany
Universiteit Leiden, Netherlands
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Germany


December 2020 - November 2021




TU Berlin: Ji Young PARK
Universiteit Leiden: Elmer VELDKAMP

Research staff:

Universität Hamburg (Digital Humanities) : Katharina Süberkrüb
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (Provenance research) Maria Sobotka

Project description

In this data-driven research project, the researchers want to study Korean art and ethnographic objects that became part of European museum collections through diplomatic encounters. The objects in question mostly are either bestowed as diplomatic gifts, gathered during diplomatic missions as well as circulated in “second-hand” diplomatic relations.

They will conduct a survey including data collection on Korean Celadon Ceramics and Export paintings, for example Gisan, in selected European museums, which were transferred to Europe via diplomatic relations in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. Celadon is considered one of the symbolic objects of Korean material and cultural history that the Joseon court preferred to bestow to foreigners. Export paintings show the everyday life of Joseon people during the “open-port period”. Both were essential items to purchase for foreign diplomatic agents. Regionally we are focusing on France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Russia.

During the research, the team will not only collect object information but also contextualize the collected data in order to accumulate knowledge regarding Korean overseas cultural heritage. Their aim is to examine a particular range of Korean material heritage that is situated on the crossroads of art historical and ethnographic views. This distinction is valuable for a contextual assessment of the reception and historiography of those objects in Europe.

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