Lot 33. A huanghuali continuous yokeback armchair (nanguanmaoyi), 17th century. Height 43 5/8  in., 111 cm; Width 23 in., 58.6 cm; Depth 18 1/2  in., 47.1 cmEstimate 50,000 — 70,000 USDLot sold 125,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's.

an elegantly arched crestrail with flattened headrest curving towards the corner posts which bow slightly before passing through the molded seat frame to form the back legs, centered by a very attractively figured S-curved rectangular splat, the gently serpentine armrests continuing to the corner posts, the soft-mat seat above front and side plain mitered aprons, the legs of cylindrical section joined by footrail, side and back stretchers of the same height, the underside with two bowed transverse braces, the wood of a mellow and rich amber color. 

ProvenanceAcquired in London, circa 1990.

NoteWith its exceptional height and elegant sinuous lines, the present armchair represents the most notable form ofnanguanmaoyi. Lacking any carved decoration, the plain well-figured timber, most evident in the particularly lively grain of the backsplat, and harmonious proportions convey an impressive sculptural quality. 

The armchair features an unusual detail with all four lower stretchers placed at the same height; a rare characteristic of which there are few examples and which are all of considerable height and devoid of ornate carved elements. A closely related example of this type, slightly taller, is in the Vok Collection and illustrated in Nicholas Grindley, Pure Form, Munich, 2004, cat. no. 10.  Another armchair with level stretchers but with bracketed aprons, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and illustrated in Craig Clunas, Chinese Furniture, London, 1988, pl. 6. Like the present example, the armchair in the Victoria and Albert Museum has small filled holes and discoloration around several joints indicating the earlier presence of reinforcing metal straps. Clunas notes that this group of particularly graceful chairs, "have retained to this century in Chinese culture something of the connotations of status and authority with which their origins were associated" (ibid, p. 22).

Sotheby's. Monochrome, New York, 15 sept. 2015