Collection of wooden furniture with mother-of-pearl inlaid decoration, Nguyen dynasty, early 20th century
Legend attributes the development of the art of inlaying mother-of-pearl into wood to the Northern delta sometime in the 10th century. However, many of the collection of wooden furniture with mother-of-pearl inlaid decoration are dated from the period of Nguyen dynasty. During this time, wooden furniture with mother-of-pearl inlaid decoration was sophisticatedly produced and included objects for worship and for everyday utensils such as landscape paintings, dragon boat paintings, procession paintings, screens, cupboards, trays and boxes. The most popular motif from the decorative patterns reflect the four sacred animals, geomancy, poetry and drawing. This cupboard is the rarest and most precious works of art from the Nguyen dynasty. The cupboard is large. On the planks at the two sides and at the front of the cupboard are decorations such as the four sacred animals (dragon, unicorn, turtle, phoenix), the four sacred plants (pine, chrysanthemum, bamboo, apricot), legends, landscapes, mountains and rivers. Especially, on the four wooden planks at the two sides of the cupboard are poems and drawings which praise the scenery of the four seasons and the elegant hobbies of Vietnamese poets in this period. Thus, the wooden furniture with mother-of-pearl inlaid decoration expresses artistic and aesthetic talent of the Nguyen dynasty as well as rich spiritual life of Confucian scholars in this period.