Lot 315. A magnificent and very rare pair of huanghuali cabinets, with display shelf and exposed tenons, Lianggegui, Late Ming dynasty, 17th- 18th Century; 75 5/8 by 38 1/2 by 19 in., 192 by 97.8 by 48.2 cm. Estimate 300,000 — 400,000 USD. Lot sold 384,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's.
each accented by superbly grained single-board floating panels forming the sides and doors, secured within thick raised frames edged with recessive rounded lobing and beading, set on baitong rectangular hinges with matching lockplate and pulls and a central post equally finely lobed, all below a spectacular display shelf framed by cusped and lobed upper aprons on three sides, each finely carved with archaistic bands, foliate scrolls and T-form hooks in thick beading, both on the interior and exterior of the aprons, all above reticulated rails with 'lotus bud' finials to the vertical posts and pierced panels of single-horned qilong or tianlu frolicking amidst zoomorphic qilong scrolls, above a lobed and cusped beaded apron, with further matching aprons between the feet accented by fierce zoomorphic feline dragon-heads within the thick beading, the interior divided into two shelves by a pair of drawers, with a distinctive feature of exposed tenons projecting from the sides at all the complex joins at the top, center, and bottom of the internal space.
Note: Display cabinets similar to the present pair, with arching inner frames and railings surrounded the open shelves, are extremely rare, with examples surviving in pairs, even rarer. Only one other pair of this particular form and design appears to be published, namely the pair from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture sold at Christie's New York, 19th September 1996, lot 76, illustrated in Wang Shixiang and Curtis Evarts, Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, Chicao and San Francicso, 1995, no. 59 and in Sarah Handler, ‘Classical Chinese Furniture in the Rennaissance Collection’, Orientations, January 1991, p. 51, fig. 15. Both pairs feature similar decorative moldings and low ornamental railings around the galleried shelf, with further crisp beading to the apron below. They also display six exposed tenons on each side which, according to Sarah Handler in Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Berkeley, 2001, p. 265, appear to indicate that the cabinet is easy to dismantle into pieces no bigger than the side panels.
The stage-like shelf found on the present cabinets closely relates to a pair of Wanli period cabinets with similar ‘cut-out’ gallery railings, but also with a removable base stand, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Wang Shixiang, Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture: Ming and Early Qing Dynasties, Hong Kong, 1990, no. D19; and to a similar rosewood cabinet with slightly different carved decoration on the apron and around the display shelf, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (I), Hong Kong, 2002, no. 179. Related examples, although with substantially fewer carved details than the present pair, also include a pair of huanghualicabinets in the Honolulu Academy of Arts, illustrated in Stephen Little and James Jenson, ‘Chinese Furniture in the Honolulu Academu of Arts, The Frederic Mueller Bequest’, Orientations, January 1988, p. 77; a pair with lotus bud finials on the galleries, sold in these rooms, 3rd June 1992, lot 339; and a pair of huanghuali square corner display cabinets from the Dr. S.Y. Yip Collection, sold at Christie’s New York, 20th September 2002, lot 12.
Cabinets such as these were appropriate for the scholar’s studio, where one could display both antiques and books