Lot 3017. A very rare pair of Dali-marble-inset huanghuali armchairs, guanmaoyi, Qing dynasty, 17th-18th century. Each: 38 ¾ in. (98.5 cm.) high, 20 ¼ in. (51.5 cm.) wide, 20 ½ in. (52 cm.) deep. Estimate HKD 2,800,000 - HKD 3,500,000. Price realised HKD 3,460,000 © Christie's Images Ltd 2018

Each has a flat crestrail of round section and supported on a three-part backsplat and backwards-curving rear posts, which continue through the seat to form the rear legs. The three-part backsplat is set with three attractive variegated black and white stone plaques which are suggestive of landscape scenes. The arm rails are supported on short front posts. The rectangular frame encloses a mat seat above plain aprons and spandrels. The whole is raised on legs of round section, joined by stepped stretchers on the sides and a foot rest at front. The feet are clad in metal sabots. 

Property from the Raymond Hung Collection

LiteratureR. H. Ellsworth, Chinese Furniture: One Hundred and Three Examples from the Mimi and Raymond Hung Collection, vol. 1, New York, 1996, pp. 62-63, no. 11.

Note: Decorative stone panels were incorporated into furniture design as early as the Han period. Decorative stone panels have long been prized by the literati for their abstract imagery and complex patterns. Often evoking dramatic landscapes, these panels were set into tables, display stands or screens. The most attractive panels were reserved for larger furniture, such as wall panels and the railings of louhan beds. The presence of beautifully variegated stone-inset furniture was a signifier of taste and wealth popularized by the Ming dynasty arbiter of taste Wen Zhenheng in his text, Treatise on Superfluous Things.  

A set of four huanghuali marble-inset horseshoe-back armchairs, formerly in the collection of the Museum of Classical Chinese furniture, is illustrated by Wang Shixiang and Curtis Evarts, Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, Chicago and San Francisco, 1995, pp. 62-63, no. 29. Similar to the present pair, this set of four horseshoe-back armchairs features a three-part backsplat with a marble panel in the central circular medallion. The present pair belongs to a group of chairs with three-part back splats that can be dated to the Ming period. A set of four huanghuali horseshoe-back armchairs, formerly in the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection feature back splats of similar design, distinguished by a finely carved openwork panel with ruyi head and a beautifully figured huanghuali panel suggestive of a landscape (two of which are illustrated as fig. 1). See, also, similarly constructed backsplats from a pair of jichimuFour Corner’s Exposed Official’s Hat Armchairs and a single huanghuali‘southern official’s hat’ armchair, illustrated in Wang Shixiang and Curtis Evarts, Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, Chicago and San Francisco, 1995, p. 52, no. 24 and p. 69, no. 32.


fig. 1. Two chairs from an extremely rare and important pair of Huanghuali horseshoe-back armchairs, Quanyi, Ming dynasty, 17th century, from the Collection of Robert H. Ellsworth; 36 ¼ in. (92 cm.) high, 24 ½ in. (62.2 cm.) wide, 17 ½ in. (44.5 cm.) deep. Sold for9,685,000 USD at Christie’s New York, 17 March 2015, lot 41. © Christie’s.

Cf. my post: An extremely rare and important set of four huanghuali horseshoe-back armchairs, quanyi, China, Ming dynasty, 17th century

Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 30 May 2018