A pair of huanghuali 'Southern officials hat' armchairs, nanguanmaoyi, Ming dynasty, 17th century

Lot 4070. A pair of huanghuali 'Southern officials hat' armchairs, nanguanmaoyi, Ming dynasty, 17th century; 46 5/8 in. (118.3 cm.) high x 24 in. (61 cm.) wide x 19 1/8 in. (48.5 cm.) deep (2). Estimate HKD 2,000,000 - HKD 3,000,000Price realised HKD 2,180,000© Christie's Images Ltd 2012

Each generously proportioned chair has a wide shaped crestrail centered upon a large headrest. The well-figured rectangular S-shaped backsplats are flanked by curved corner posts which extend through the rectangular seat frame enclosing a hard mat seat. The outcurved arms are supported by tapering side posts and front posts extending to the front legs. The legs are joined by curvilinear beaded aprons above long spandrels. The feet are joined by the footrest and side stretchers supported by stepped aprons.

Provenance: Acquired by the present owner in Hong Kong in the late 1980s

NoteTwo miniature examples of yoke-back chairs, similar in construction to the full-sized examples, were excavated in 1960 from the tomb of Pan Yunzheng (1589).

Examples of continuous yoke-back chairs vary in size. Among the largest examples of this form (128 cm. high) is a pair of chairs with shaped aprons in the Minneapolis Institute of Art, illustrated in Classical Chinese Furniture in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 1999, pp. 52-53, no. 9.


Armchairs with Continuous Yoke Back, a pairc. 1600, Huang-hua-li hardwood, 44 1/2 x 23 1/4 x 17 1/2 in. (113.03 x 59.06 x 44.45 cm)Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton, 91.69.1 © Minneapolis Institute of Art

 By the late Ming, the trend was towards an aesthetic of simplicity and plain, subtle and graceful forms were generally favoured over ornateness. The present pair of chairs embodies this search for simplicity with the beauty and elegance of the chairs found in the sweeping curves of the members and subtle variations in the grain of the wood. 

Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 30 May 2012, Hong Kong, HKCEC Grand Hall