1

2

3

4

Lot 108. A huanghuali high yoke-back armchair, Late Ming dynasty;  115 by 58.3 by 45 cm, 45 1/4  by 22 7/8  by 17 5/8  in. Estimate 2,200,000 — 3,500,000 HKD (258,928 - 411,931 EUR). Lot sold 2,960,000 (334,159 EUR). Photo Sotheby's.

made of choice timber in fluid curves and a vigorously shaped top rail with the centre serving as a headrest, the 'S'-shaped back splat carved with a medallion of floral motif and tongue-and-grooved into the underside of the top rail and the back member of the seat frame, the round stiles tennoned into the top rail and, like the front round posts, passing through the seat and becoming the square-section legs, the elongated 'S'-shaped arms mortised and tennoned into the stiles, the posts supported by tapering 'S'-shaped braces of circular sections, the mitred, mortised and tennoned seat frame with exposed tenons on the short rails and two transverse braces underneath, the edge of the seat frame moulding downward and inward from about one third way down to end in a narrow flat band, the front apron below the seat with a curved beaded edge, the similarly shaped side and back aprons left plain, the legs joined by a footrail in front with a plain apron beneath, the sides and back with rectangular stretchers, all with exposed tenons and plain shaped aprons below.

Provenance: Grace Wu Bruce, Hong Kong. 

Note: This high back armchair, with its 'S'-shaped back splat carved with a floral medallion is the classic form of yoke-back chairs. The centre of the top rail, carved to serve as a headrest, is also a standard feature of high-quality yoke-back armchairs. The name "yoke-back" armchair derives from the resemblance of the top rail of this type of chairs to the yoke placed across the necks of oxen pulling a plough. High yoke-back armchairs are perhaps the rarest type of chairs in surviving examples of Ming furniture. Chairs of this design can be seen in woodblock illustrations to Ming period novels including Jin Ping Mei ['The Golden Lotus'].

A very similar piece in the collection of the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, is illustrated in Chinese Ming and Qing Furniture Gallery, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, 1996, p. 5, also illustrated by Wang Shixiang, Classic Chinese Furniture: Ming and Early Qing Dynasties, Han-Shan Tang, London, 1986, p. 88, from his personal collection.

See also a similar example with a plain back-splat, in the collection of the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts, Beijing, illustrated in Chen Zengbi, Zhongyang Gongyi Meishu Xueyuan Yuancang: Zhenpin Tulu [Central Academy of Arts and Crafts: Illustrations of collections], vol. 2: Mingshi Jiaju [Ming Furniture], Hong Kong, 1994, p. 23. 

Sotheby's. Ming Furniture – An Asian Private Collection, Hong Kong, 06 avr. 2016, 02:00 PM