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A Pair Of Huanghuali Horseshoeback Armchairs, Quanyi, 17th Century - Photo Sotheby's

each with a curving crest rail terminating in everted handgrips, above a bowed backsplat, carved with a stylised ruyi-shaped medallion and flanked by narrow shaped-flange brackets, with soft cane seat and moulded seat frame, on circular legs joined by shaped aprons and foot stretchers. Quantité: 2 - 96.5cm., 38in. Estimation: 50,000 - 70,000 GBP

PROVENANCE: Collection of Dr J.H. Zeeman, Chargé d'Affaires, Embassy of the Netherlands, Beijing, 1954-1957.
Thence by descent.

NOTE DE CATALOGUE: Chairs of this type, known as quanyi in Chinese, developed from round-back folding chairs, as explained by furniture specialist Hu Desheng in The Palace Museum Collection. A Treasury of Ming and Qing Dynasty Palace Furniture, vol. 1, Beijing, 2007, p. 92. Hu, ibid., p. 92, further notes that because of its round backrest and smooth, downwardsloping armrest, folding chairs were exceptionally comfortable and highly favoured. Over time, they gradually developed into the ‘round-back chair’, as seen here, which were made for interior use as opposed to folding chairs that were garden or outdoor furnishings. They also differed from folding chairs with their straight legs and hard seat panels that retained traces of the crossed-leg chair form. During the Ming and Qing periods, chairs of this type were frequently called ‘grand tutor’s chair’ or taishi yi, referring to their popularity amongst the gentry and scholar-literati.

While the majority of quanyi are undecorated, the small carved medallions on the back splat of this pair are added embellishments that give them a hint of elegance while maintaining the simplicity of the form. Horseshoeback armchairs can be found in the Palace Museum, Beijing, included ibid., figs. 67-76; formerly in the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture sold at Christie’s New York, 19th September 1996, lot 41; and a plain pair of chairs in the collection of Messrs. Robert and William Drummond, published in Gustav Ecke, Chinese Domestic Furniture, Rutland and Tokyo, 1962, pl. 106. Compare also a closely related chair included in the exhibition Chinese Huanghuali Furniture From a Private Collection, Eskenazi, London, 2011, cat. no. 10; and one in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, illustrated in Craig Clunas, Chinese Furniture, London, 1988, where on p. 27, a folding armchair, from the collections of Sir Harry Garner and Lady Garner, is also published.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art. London | 07 nov. 2012 www.sothebys.com