A valuable and historically-important 425-year-old scroll was found in the basement of the Honolulu Museum of Art.

The relic was discovered by a group of art historians who were sifting through a vault of uncatalogued works. They identified it as a Korean ink painting on silk, dating from 1586, and are researching the artist and other details.

Honolulu Museum of Art curator Shawn Eichman said it is “hands-down the most valuable [work] in our Korean collection.”

“We found one that is the gem among gems,” said Eichman. “Ten years after the painting, the peninsula was invaded by Japan, who destroyed everything they found. To be able to find anything before invasion is a huge discovery.”

The scroll is just one of 3,000 pieces from the collection of the late Richard Lane which the museum acquired in 2003 for just $26,000. The single recently-identified piece makes the collection now worth “millions,” says Eichman, and more cataloguing is underway.

Florida-born Lane (1926-2002) died in Kyoto without an heir and Japanese judicial authorities sold his vast collection. Lane amassed some 20,000 paintings, prints, and books, including over 800 works of Japanese shunga (erotica).


Detail of a 16th c.  Korean scroll discovered in a vault at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

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