Japanese Illustration of Last Korean Queen Discovered

      January 13, 2005 20:17

      After fresh documentary evidence rekindled interest in Korea's assassinated last empress Myeongseong (1851~1895), a depiction of the empress thought to be drawn from life has come to light. So far, no photos and paintings have been confirmed as definitely depicting the empress.


      An illustration drawn by a Japanese painter presumed to be that of Empress Myeongseong (1851~1895) has been discovered. In the illustration, Empress Myongseong and King Gojong meet Japanese charge d'affaires Inoue Kaoru.

      Seoul National University history professor Lee Tae-jin on Thursday unveiled the picture, an illustration from the 84th edition of the Japanese illustrated magazine "Fuuzokugaboo," which he unearthed in an antique book store in Tokyo.

      The picture published on Jan. 25, 1895, shows King Gojong and Empress Myeongseong, also known as Queen Min, receiving Japanese charge d'affaires Inoue Kaoru.

      A picture said to be of Empress Myeongseong but believed by some to show her servant.

      The scene is marked Dec. 8, 1894, the year before the empress was assassinated. At the top, it bears the legend, "The [Korean] King and Queen, moved by our honest advice, realize the need for resolute reform for the first time." The artist signed himself Ishizuka.

      In the illustration, both Gojong and Japanese minister Inoue are looking at the empress, giving the impression that Myeongseong and Inoue are doing the talking while Gojong is listening. This reflects the political prestige the empress enjoyed.

      It appears likely that the illustration was drawn at the scene. Professor Lee said the empress rarely took part in official meetings, so the reception depicted in the picture must have been exceptional.

      He also said the depictions of the clothes and background were very detailed, so it appears an artist accompanying Inoue drew the scene from life.

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