Lot 59. A rare pair of embellished huanghuali horse-shoe back armchairs, 17th-18th century. 88.5 by 64 by 65cm., 34 7/8 by 25 1/8 by 25 1/2 in. Estimate 80,000 — 120,000 GBP. Lot sold 98,500 GBP.
the five-member crestrail inlaid with six mother-of-pearl chilong, the two larger creatures grasping vegetal scrolls towards the rounded terminals, the single-board S-curved splat, flanked by mock-spandrels, featuring two enclosed panels, the upper with inlaid horn and mother-of-pearl chilong, with a larger panel of groups of vases, censers and precious objects in soapstone, ivory and horn below, the soft matted seats with two transverse braces, set above an apron carved with entwined scrolls, the four posts continuing to the rounded legs with continuous brackets, box stretcher.
Provenance: Purchased in Knokke, Belgium, in the early 1960s.
A Belgian Private Collection.
Note: Embellished huanghuali furniture of this period is extremely rare, and such decorative techniques are more commonly found on wood brushpots and boxes. Such ornamentation may have been inspired by architectural panels and according to Wang Shixiang, in Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture. Ming and Early Qing Dynasties, Hong Kong, 1990, p. 145, this type of embellishment is known as zhouzhi, after the Ming dynasty craftsman Zhou Zhu who was known for this technique. Only two other pairs of embellished horseshoe-back armchairs appear to have been published, both with inlaid images of antiques; a closely related pair was sold in our New York rooms, 18th March 2008, lot 233; and another pair, but lacking the inlay on the armrests, from the collection of Mrs Rafi Y. Mottahedeh, was also sold in our New York rooms, 19th October 1990, lot 580.
There appear to be only seven other embellished huanghuali chairs published, all of the yokeback type, each inlaid with a bird among flowering branches; see Nancy Berliner et. al., Beyond the Screen. Chinese Furniture of the 16th and 17thCentury, Wilmington, Massachusetts, 1996, no. 10, pp 109-111 for one from a set of four chairs; Shing Yiu Yip et. al., Chan Chair and Qin Bench. The Dr S.Y. Yip Collection of Classic Chinese Furniture II, Hong Kong, 1998, no. 3, pp 62-63; and one of a pair of chairs in the National Museum of History, Taipei, illustrated in Splendor of Style. Classical Furniture from the Ming and Ch’ing Dynasties, 1999, National Museum of History, Taipei, p. 86.
Compare similarly embellished wood objects, such as an elaborate box sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 17th November 1988, lot 256; a screen attributed to the 17th century, sold in these rooms, 25th October 1980, lot 282. See also a pair of horse-shoe back armchairs, formerly in the collections of John D. Rockefeller Jr., and Nelson Rockefeller, of similar form but without the inlay and carved with antiques and chilong on the splat, sold in these rooms, 2nd December 1922, lot 67
Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, London, 06 Nov 2013