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7 / Domestic Life

Grapevine in the Wind
Grapevine in the Wind
Artist / Origin Korean artist
Region: East Asia
Date Chosôn Dynasty, 16th century
Material Ink on silk
Medium: Painting
Dimensions H: 31 ½ in. (80 cm.), W: 15 ¾ in. (40 cm.)
Location The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Credit © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY

expert perspective

Soyoung LeeAssociate Curator of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Additional Resources

Cambon, Pierre. Poetry of Ink: The Korean Literati Tradition 1392–1910. Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2006.

Lee, Soyoung. “Yangban: The Cultural Life of the Chosôn Literati.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/yang/hd_yang.htm (October 2004).

Mullany, Frank. Symbolism in Korean Ink Brush Painting. Kent, UK: Global Oriental, 2006.

Pratt, Keith. Korean Painting. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

“Unidentified artist: Grapevine in the Wind [Korea] (1994.439).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ho/08/eak/ho_1994.439.htm (October 2006).

Grapevine in the Wind

» Korean artist

The Chosôn (or Joseon) period in Korea lasted over five hundred years, from 1392 to 1910.

Among the most privileged members of Chosôn society were the yangban, a class of elite men who held government offices and were students of Confucian thought. These men sought to live according to Confucian principles and mores, and applied these standards to their social spheres, as well as to their professional ones.

Following Confucian tenets, the yangban typically maintained separate spaces for men and women within the home. The center of life in the male quarters was the sarangbang, or “study,” where the head of house would receive and entertain guests. The yangban actively participated in the arts of poetry, calligraphy, and landscape painting, as both patrons and amateur practitioners. During gatherings, a host would often unroll painted scrolls and hang them on the wall for his guests to enjoy and examine.

This hanging scroll is typical of the kind of monochrome ink paintings favored by the yangban. The work is minimalist, offering a close-up view of a grapevine rendered with an air of spontaneity and a calligraphic elegance. Bold strokes applied with varying degrees of speed and pressure create the branch of the vine, and subtly suggest volume by allowing the scroll’s silk ground to show through in places, a technique known as “flying white.” Chosôn literati were partial to natural motifs that often held symbolic meaning associated with Confucian virtues. For instance, bamboo, which sways in the wind but does not break, was understood as a metaphor for nobility and integrity. Although the precise significance of the grapevine is unknown, it likely signified prosperity and fertility.

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