Devout Prayers: Korean Religious Paintings of the Joseon Dynasty and Beyond

Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and the Ten Kings of Hell (Jijang shiwang-do). Korean; Joseon dynasty, circa 1600. Hanging scroll painting remounted and framed; ink and color on hemp, H. 50 ½ x W. 58 ¼ inches. Murray Warner Collection, MWK36:6


Shaman’s Fan (Museon) with Twelve Figures. Korean; late Joseon dynasty or Colonial period, circa late 19th-early 20th century. Folding fan; ink and color on paper, 16 ¼ x W. 32 ¼ inches. On loan from the Robert and Sandra Mattielli Collection, TN00494.10


Devout Prayers: Korean Religious Paintings of the Joseon Dynasty and Beyond

June 15, 2022 to April 30, 2023


The JSMA owns a remarkable Korean painting of the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and the Ten Kings of Hell that was donated by museum-founder Gertrude Bass Warner (1863-1951). A bodhisattva is a compassionate Buddhist deity that postpones its own enlightenment to assist others along the same spiritual path, and Ksitigarbhawho is always depicted with the shaven head, robes, and staff of a Buddhist monkis the merciful deity who saves those suffering in the underworld. In this painting, he is attended by the Ten Kings of Hell, fearsome judges who, based on the deceased’s activities in life­, decide upon which Karmic path they will be reincarnated. This elegant painting was created circa 1600 but suffered damage over the ensuing centuries. Thanks to a generous 2014 grant from the Korean National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage (NRICH), it was expertly conserved and remounted at the Gochang Conservation Institute in Yongin, Gyeonggido. This is the first time the painting will be displayed since that treatment.

This exhibition also features a selection of dazzling loans and gifts from the Portland-based collection of Robert and Sandra Mattielli. Colorful Buddhist, Daoist, Shamanistic, and auspicious folk paintings represent eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth-century Koreans’ devout wishes for longevity, prosperity, and good fortune, and give a sense of the variety and richness of sacred art in the second half of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). Organized by Anna Kim, the JSMA’s 2021-22 Korea Foundation Global Challengers Intern. With profound gratitude to the NRICH and Gochang Conservation Institute master conservator SONG Jeongju and her staff in Korea.