Tiger and magpies
An important subject for Koreans since ancient times, the tiger has been featured not only in foundational myths but also in many Korean parables. As an object of awe and terror as well as worship, the tiger became a popular subject for painting during the Joseon dynasty. The magpie adds a humorous element to the tiger theme. Paintings of the pair were placed on the front gates of houses on New Year’s Day to wish for good fortune and luck in the coming year. Tigers were believed to expel evil spirits, while magpies represented bearers of good news. In this painting, a yellow-eyed tiger snarls at the viewer while two magpies chatter away below a pine tree. The tiger’s forehead is spotted like a puma’s, and while the snarl is supposed to be fearsome, it also projects humor. Fine and wet brushstrokes were combined in the depiction of the tiger, birds, and pine tree.
The inscription on the upper left reads:
In the picture of a scenic mountain
a fierce tiger roars at the wind of the pines
as two magpies clatter above its head
The tiger turns its gaze to them, rolling its red tongue.
—Written by the hermit Sonam
|Credit Line||Gift of Namkoong Ryun|
|Right||Asian Art Museum of Sanfrancisco|
|Period||Joseon dynasty (1392-1910)|
|Medium||Ink and colors on paper|
H. 38 7/8 in x W. 29 1/2 in, H. 98.7 cm x W. 74.9 cm (image);
H. 67 1/8 in x W. 29 1/4, H. 74.3 cm x W. 170.5 in (overall)