Home > Asia Pacific > North Asia > S/N Korea > Arts & Culture

Stolen Buddhist painting returns to S. Korea from U.S.

Yonhap News, Dec 14, 2016

SEOUL, South Korea -- The Jogye Order, South Korea's largest Buddhist sect, on Wednesday revealed an 18th-century stolen Korean Buddhist painting returned from the United States after its American owner and a U.S. art museum agreed to repatriate it here.

<< The Buddhist painting "Obuldo," meaning five Buddhas, is uncloaked at the office of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism in Seoul on Dec. 14, 2016. The painting was stolen from Songgwang Temple in Suncheon, 415 kilometers south of the capital, and later turned up at the Portland Museum of Art in the United States, donated there by American Robert Matielli, who had purchased it in Seoul. It was brought back to Korea on an agreement by Matielli and the museum. At left is Ven. Jinwha, head of Songgwang Temple, and at right is Ven. Jaseung, head of the Jogye Order, the largest Buddhist sect in Korea. (Yonhap)

The painting, called "Obuldo" in Korean, a depiction of Five Buddhas, was stolen from Songgwang Temple in Suncheon, 415 kilometers southwest of Seoul, in the early 1970s.

Obuldo, made by Uigyeom, a Buddhist monk and painter, as one painting in a series of 53 Buddhas in 1725, was transported to the South Korean temple the same day, six days after it was brought back to South Korea from the Portland Museum of Art in the United States.

American Robert Mattielli, who lived as an artist and teacher in Seoul for three decades starting in the 1960s, bought the roughly folded Buddhist painting for just US$10 at an antique shop in Seoul and had the damaged painting flattened, cleaned and framed in the early 1970s, before he and his wife Sandra moved back to Oregon in 1985 with the artwork

The two, advocates for Korean art, decided to donate the work to the Portland Art Museum in 2014, when a team from the Korean National Research Institute for Cultural Heritage was conducting a survey of the U.S. museum's Korean collections to publish a bilingual catalogue, according to the Korean Cultural Heritage Administration.

Several months later, the team reported to the museum that the Buddhist painting was stolen from Songgwang Temple sometime in the early 1970s. Upon hearing the news, the couple offered to repatriate the painting to South Korea.

In a ceremony to reveal the painting, Lee Yong-yoon, chief of the Buddhist sect's cultural properties team, called the painting's return "a good example of cultural properties' return, saying: "In most cases, we were able to return cultural properties by participating in auctions. In this case, however, it is meaningful that the owner donated his much-loved Buddhist painting with no strings attached."

Songgwang Temple plans to hold a ceremony on Dec. 29, 2016, to mark the placement of the painting back to its place and run an exhibition for it from Jan. 30 through Feb. 25.

During the Wednesday ceremony, Ven. Jinwha, head of Songgwang Temple, said the temple will invite the Mattiellis and officials of the U.S. museum to South Korea to thank them for the return once again.

"We will also make a deal with the Portland Art Museum to exhibit cultural properties from both the temple and the museum," he said,

Ven. Jaseung, head of the Jogye Order, said, "The painting's return has called our attention to efforts to have stolen cultural properties returned," and vowed to install a system devoted to the prevention of cultural properties being stolen out of the country.

Web www.buddhistchannel.tv www.buddhistnews.tv


About BTN and BTN World

Korean Buddhist News from BTN (Korean Language)

BTN donate

bc logo

Please help keep the Buddhist Channel going


Point your feed reader to this location

      About The Channel   |   Disclaimer