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Korean Cabinet with Butterfly Hinges

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Unknown Artist

Korean Cabinet with Butterfly Hinges

Wood, brass

Bequest of M. Carey Thomas, President of Bryn Mawr College, 1894-1922

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: Deanery.324
Other Number(s): W.316 (Wyndham No.)
Geography: Asia
Classification: Furnishings and Furniture; Furniture
Culture/Nationality: Korean
Collection: Deanery Collection
Large cabinet (chang) with three sets of doors stacked vertically and four drawers across the top. Stands off the ground on four square, short legs. Traditionally, Korean homes were heated through the floors so furniture often was placed on stands or had feet to protect their contents. Front has lattice design in raised wood of rectangles and squares. Three sets of cabinet doors are stacked vertically and open into small compartments. The doors have round handles on metal plates that, when the cabinet is closed, form the shape of a butterfly. Small quarter-circle metal plates cover the four corners of each door and the doors are connected to the cabinet by butterfly-shaped hinges. The four drawers at the top have pull handles with flat plates.

The three-tiered cabinet with drawers (chang) is a common furniture piece from 19th century Korea. It was often used for clothing storage, but less decorated examples were used in areas of food preparation or storage. A large number of pieces would also have the lattice design and metal plating on corners. The decorative hinges are in the shape of a butterfly, which is a symbol for long life. While the Bryn Mawr piece does not have them, it is common for the pull handles to be in the shape of bats, as the Korean word for bat is a homophone for “good luck”.

M. Carey Thomas and Mary Elizabeth Garret purchased this chest in San Francisco for their home in the Deanery, where it stood in the lounge.

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<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Korean Cabinet with Butterfly Hinges |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=10/23/2021 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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