Techniques Used in Royal Portraiture During the Late Joseon Dynasty (date change)

Doo Hee Chung
Thursday, June 28, 2018 -
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace
10,000 won for non-members and 5,000 won for students (with student ID); free for members

Techniques Used in Royal Portraiture During the Late Joseon Dynasty



DATE CHANGE: Thursday,  June 28

Venue: Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace, Gwanghwamun (near Anguk Station, across street from Japanese Embassy)

Admission: 10,000 won for non-members and 5,000 won for students (with student ID); free for members.  No registration or RSVPs are required to attend.

Korean royal portraits were made by the greatest painters of their time and display traditional painting techniques at their highest level. This study describes the techniques used in royal portraiture during the late Joseon Dynasty (the Late 17thCentury through the early 20thCentury) based on academic studies, a collection of royal protocol documents from the period, and scientific surveys of the portraits in question.Because of the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945), Korea lost many of its traditional arts, including its time-honored portraiture techniques.

Later, in 1954 - after the Korean War (1950-1953), many royal portraits from the Joseon period were burned. However, a few of these portraits—as well as a collection of royal protocol documents detailing their construction—survived, so scholars can still study the techniques employed and marvel at the skills of traditional Korean portraitists.
The process of making traditional portraits begins with a sketch of the subject on paper. This is followed by a tracing process in which one traces the sketch onto a silk canvas with ink. Next, there are two stages of coloring. The back of the silk canvas is colored first, followed by the front. Coloring on the back side of the portrait is important, because the silk canvas is partially transparent, which allows the color to show through. For those who have only seen mounted portraits in a gallery, viewing the coloring on the back of the canvas is truly revelatory.
Portraits traditional pigments that can be divided into two categories: inorganic and organic. Inorganic pigments are mineral stones, white lead (which is a synthetic mineral), etc. Organic pigments are carmine, gamboges, indigo, etc. Although there are many variations in the use of pigments, there are some common conventions. For example, the back of the face is always painted in white lead mixed with either inorganic pigments or organic pigments, while the front of the face is painted with layers of cinnabar (an inorganic pigment) along with layers of organic pigments.
Based on the Royal Cultural Heritage Conservation Researchseries (published by the National Palace Museum of Korea), this lecture details both the artistry of traditional Korean portraits as well as the techniques, skills, and materials used to create them. Attendees will see images of both sides of the existing royal portraits, as well as an actual portrait replica on silk canvas, and learn about the creation of these artworks and the history behind them in detail.


Dr. Doo Hee Chunghas been professional involved with traditional Korean portraiture ever since she began her doctoral courses at Seoul National University. Since then, she has made reproductions of many royal portraits, which are on display at national museums around the country. She is currently a professor at Yeungnam University where she is teaching a new generation about traditional techniques. 

Academic Writing
2016 “A Study of the Techniques Used in the Portrait of King Yeongjo,” The 
Journal of Art and Culture Studies, East-West Art and Culture Studies 
2013 “A Study of the Techniques Used in Royal Portraiture During the Late Joseon Dynasty,” The Journal of Art and Culture Studies, East-West Art and Culture Studies Association
2012 “A Study of the Techniques Used in Royal Portraiture During the Late Joseon Dynasty,” Seoul National University Dissertation
Reproductions of King's Portraits
2016 Reproduction of Portrait of King Gojong(National Palace Museum of Korea, Seoul)
2015 Reproduction of Portrait of King Taejo(National Museum of Korea, Seoul)
Reproduction of Portrait of King Wonjong (National Palace Museum of Korea, Seoul)
2014 Reproduction of Portrait of King Sunjong(National Palace Museum of Korea, Seoul)
2013 Reproduction of Portrait of King Taejo (National Palace Museum of Korea, Seoul)
2009 Reproduction of Portrait of Yeongjo(Seoul Museum of History, Seoul)


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