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From Divine Heroes to Sage-Kings: Portraits of Kings of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Korea
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
National Palace Museum of Korea, Republic of Korea
This paper examines portraits of Joseon kings that were employed as objects of worship in royal portrait halls (眞殿). Recognizing the commemorative and “quasi-public” functions of portrait halls, I consider notions of rulership embodied by the portraits displayed in them and how the visual formulas used for these portraits changed over the course of the dynasty. To clarify the distinctive concepts of rulership represented in the Joseon royal portraits, I will use the history of the imperial portraits of the Ming Dynasty, China, which served as precedents, as a foil. In both cases, the poses of the figures changed over time. Whereas Ming imperial portraits go from three-quarter views to a strict frontal orientations, the opposite happens in Joseon royal portraits. The early Joseon court selected a strictly frontal and iconic pose for the founding king, which was not adopted for portraits of Ming emperors until the middle of the Ming period. Conversely, it was dropped for images of the late-Joseon kings, who came to be shown as more modest figures seen in the three-quarter view. I will argue that these different choices of Joseon court were related to change in the concept of kingship, based on the deepened understanding of Neo Confucianism. In developing the comparison of Joseon and Ming, I will also examine the influence of institutional differences in Joseon royal and Ming imperial ancestor worship on the portrayals of the rulers of these two dynasties.