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The Mattiellis Who Repatriated the Five Buddhas to Songgwangsa Met with Jogye Order President

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Writer Jogye Date27 Jun 2017 Read401 Comment0

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The Mattiellis Who Repatriated the Five Buddhas to Songgwangsa Met with Jogye Order President

 

 “I believe that cherished traditions were lost during the course of modernization and it is common phenomenon throughout the world. It was indeed regrettable to see traditional crafts were discarded without careful consideration with the waves of modernization in society. The same thing happened in Korea, too, between the 1960s and 1980s. I ended up purchasing several artworks at antique shops in Insadong, Seoul, in an attempt to uphold treasured cultural traditions in Korea and one of the works is the Five Buddhas of Songgwangsa.”

 

The Mattiellis who repatriated the Five Buddhas to Songgwangsa without conditions met with Ven. Jaseung, the President of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, on June 20, while Mr. Mattielli expressed his regrets over traditions faded away during the course of modernization.

 

Robert Mattielli, 92, said, “It was turned out that the Five Buddhas, which I had donated to the Portland Art Museum so that the sacred painting could be more widely enjoyed by many visitors, was a stolen Buddhist cultural property. I am so relieved that the Buddhist treasure could be repatriated to Korea last December. The value of cultural properties is highlighted the most when they are returned to their proper places. I am very pleased that the treasured painting is now finally enshrined at its proper place. For me, I think two decades were enough to appreciate the sacred beauty of the Five Buddhas.”   

 

Mr. Mattielli, who lived in South Korea for three decades from 1958, also said, “Seoul is like my second hometown. I became interested in Korean culture while managing crafts and artworks at the Office of the Eighth United States Army. It is my sincere hope that cherished values lost in Korean society can be further encouraged to be enjoyed by as many citizens as possible while looking back on underrated traditions during the course of modernization.”    

 

The Mattiellis purchased the Five Buddhas at an antique shop in Seoul in the early 1970s. The Buddhist painting was too damaged to be recognized but conservation treatment was provided when Mr. and Mrs. Mattielli went back to the U.S. in 1985 and it was donated to the Portland Art Museum in 2014. The National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage confirmed that the painting was a stolen Buddhist cultural property in July 2014, and notified this to the Museum. As the Mattiellis wholeheartedly welcomed the idea of returning the sacred painting to Songgwangsa, the Five Buddhas was transported to the Songgwangsa Museum on December 14, 2016.  

 

The cooperation among the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, Cultural Heritage Administration, Songgwangsa, Portland Art Museum and the Mattiellis made the return of the painting possible. Importantly, the recent achievement is assessed to be an exemplary case of repatriation of stolen cultural properties, as it laid the groundwork for sustainable cultural exchange between Songgwangsa and the Portland Art Museum building on treasured cultural heritage.  

 

Ven. Jaseung said, “I am very grateful to the Mattiellis for donating the well-conserved and managed Five Buddhas. I have every confidence that this rare accomplishment will serve as a best practice of repatriation of stolen cultural properties going forward.”   

 

The Mattiellis attended the symposium on the Five Buddhas and special exhibition at the Songgwangsa Museum led by Ven. Gogyeong and returned to the U.S. on June 23.  

 

 

Article reference: http://www.beopbo.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=98608

 

A video clip about the story above can be found at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzMdOuTUQxI

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