This portrait of Yi Seong-gye, who founded the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and became its first ruler King Taejo (r. 1392-1398), measures 150cm wide and 218cm high.
Widely admired as a dynasty founder, King Taejo had a total of 26 official portraits enshrined in many parts of his kingdom.
Unfortunately, all these portraits have disappeared except the one currently hung in Gyeonggijeon Shrine in Jeonju.
Often compared with the official portrait of the founder and first emperor of the Ming Dynasty of China, this portrait captures the full body of King Taejo in a royal robe and winged cap, seated in a chair, facing forward.
The angled outlines of the royal robe and its voluminous lower part covering the legs reflect the characteristic style found in the meritorious subjects’ portraits of the early Joseon Dynasty.
The tall footrest continued to be used for the Joseon’s royal portraits until that of King Sukjong (r. 1674-1720) while the dragon design decorating the chair traces back to the portrait of King Gongmin of the Goryeo Dynasty and was used for the kings’ portraits until the early Joseon Dynasty.
The artist used a shading technique to create a three-dimensional effect for the winged cap as well as the king’s face.
This painting is a reproduction made in 1872 (the 9th year of King Gojong’s reign) based on the original, which had worn out with old age.
This faithful and successful reproduction of the original makes it a valuable source of knowledge on the portraits of the early Joseon period.