A rare Korean funerary statue that resided for nearly 45 years outside Payne Hall on the Peabody College campus has been relocated to the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery in Cohen Memorial Hall, where it has begun to receive restorative care.
A reception to honor the artifact and Vanderbilt’s longstanding partnerships with Asia will be held on Thursday, October 9, from 3:15 to 4 pm in the Cohen atrium. An alumnus lecture on Chinese funerary art by Fan Zhang, MA’03, will follow in the adjacent lecture hall, Cohen 203.
The reception falls on a day of cultural significance in Korean history. The date marks the invention of Hangeul, Korea’s phonetic alphabet.
Recent interest in the statue resulted in an appraisal by the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation, which identified the work as a “Si-jah Seok” (attendant figure) from the 17th century. This type of statue would have been part of a retinue of stone figures, which are typical of Korean royal tombs.
The statue was presented as a gift from the Korean government to Willard E. Goslin, a Peabody College administrator and professor who helped forge a strong relationship with Korea. In the mid-1950s Goslin and a delegation of Peabody professors traveled to South Korea to help rebuild its educational system after the Korean War.
The “Multi-Year Korea Project” also brought substantial numbers of Korean educators to Peabody to earn doctoral degrees and return to their homeland to assume leadership roles there. In 1961 Goslin, a nationally famous educator in the United States, was awarded an honorary doctorate from Seoul National University and hailed as “the father of modern education in Korea.” After his death, his wife donated the statue to Peabody College where it was installed near the front entrance of Payne Hall.
The conservation effort for the statue is led by the Office of the Dean of Peabody College, the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery, the Asian Studies Program, the Department of History of Art, the Department of English, and the Vanderbilt Korean Alumni group.
Light refreshments will be served at the reception followed by the lecture and gallery tour, which are free and open to the public. The Fine Arts Gallery is housed in Cohen Memorial Hall, 1220 21st Avenue South on the western edge of the Peabody campus. Parking is available in Lot 95 outside Cohen Hall, off 21st Avenue South on the Peabody campus and across from Medical Center East.