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Frequently Asked Questions...

Where can I find out what certain Korean stamps mean?

U bought a Korean(I think) oil painting from an estate sale a few years back. It is absolutely beautiful but I know nothing about it. It is about 8'x 4' and is a black oil seascape painting. It has some red stamps and some calligraphy but I have no idea what they mean. I am assuming that it is the artists stamp and maybe a description of the location. Where can I get more information about this. I don't even know where to begin???

Best Answer...


It may or may not be Korean, But the red stamp is a cartouche. This is a stamp with the owner''s name placed there by the owner of the art work.
In traditional Oriental two dimensional art work as opposed to art work from Europe the art work itself is seen as having a life or history if you will. An artist might,for instance, do a landscape. You come along and purchase the work. Most of these works were not on constant display. But instead as scrolls were stored away and taken out on occasion to view and contemplate. Eventually you are so moved by the image that you compose a poem. You, being a cultured individual,practiced in calligraphy, apply serious aesthetic thought as to where you will write/place this poem on the artwork. Something unheard of in European and western art.
On some Oriental art work you might even see more than one poem written. Written by another owner. As well as many cartouche stamps put there by the various people that owned the work over time.. Traditionally none of these poems are written by the artist.
You also have a cartouche stamp, this has your name on it sometimes within an oval or square, sometimes not.. Using red ink you ,again using aesthetic judgment, decide where you will make the mark. All of this,the poem, the cartouche stamp are applied with the intention of enhancing the artwork. Over time a history of the work's life is recorded on the work itself. The different owners and in some cases their reaction to the work with the inclusion of a poem.

Two owners::