Lot 111. A pair of large huanghuali high continuous yokeback armchairs, Late Ming dynasty; 124 by 58.5 by 45.3 cm., 48 3/4 by 23 by 17 7/8 in. Estimate 12,000,000 — 18,000,000 HKD. Lot Sold 21,080,000 HKD (2,423,271 EUR). Courtesy Sotheby's.
each elegantly proportioned with slender members, the top rail carved with a headrest in the centre and hidden mortised and tennoned into the stiles on both ends, the stiles extending through the seat frame and continuing as back legs, a plain S-shaped back splat tongue-and-grooved into the top rail and tennoned into the seat frame, the S-shaped arms hidden mortised and tennoned into posts extending through the seat frame and continuing as the front legs, each side with an S-shaped circular-sectioned support fitted in round sockets in the seat frame and the underside of the arms, the seat of standard mitre, mortise and tenon construction with exposed tenons, moulding inward and ending in a beaded edge with two transverse braces mortised and tennoned to the seat frame underneath, a wide flat-banded-edged spandrelled apron butt-joined to the underside of the seat and continuing tongue-and-grooved into the legs and tennoned into the curved foot rail, the aprons on the sides similarly shaped without bands and the one at the back left plain and high, the slightly splayed legs joined by square-sectioned stretchers rounded on the outside, the footrest and side stretchers supported on plain, humpback-shaped aprons.
Exhibited: Grace Wu Bruce, Dreams of Chu Tan Chamber and the Romance with Huanghuali wood: The Dr. S. Y. Yip Collection of Classic Chinese Furniture, Hong Kong, 1991, cat. no. 3, pp. 26-27.
The Chinese Collections, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, 1997-99.
Grace Wu Bruce presents Ming Furniture from the Collection of Dr. S. Y. Yip, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, 1999.
Grace Wu Bruce, Grace Wu Bruce presents a choice selection of Ming Furniture from the Dr. S. Y. Yip collections, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Hong Kong, 2012, pp. 14-15.
Note: "A pair of high back chairs can grace any living room with an air of nobility. The taller the back – the more senior the ranking."
Continuous yoke-back armchairs are a classic type of Ming chairs. The ranking of chairs in the Ming period was hierarchical with large size and high back chairs being deemed more important seats reserved for the master of the house and senior guests. The present examples with their extremely high backs must mean they were seats of great importance at the time.
Except for a beaded edge on the seat frame and a flat-banded edge on the front apron underneath the seat, this pair of chairs is completely plain. Consequently, its height and statuesque proportions are emphasised. The timber chosen for the back splats has whorl patterns, showing huanghuali wood at its best. While the design of these chairs is standard, their exceptional height and fine proportion places them among the best examples of their type.
Comparable examples except for the inlaid material on the back splat are illustrated in Nancy Berliner, Beyond the Screen: Chinese Furniture of the 16th and 17th centuries, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1996, p. 111. For a similar but single chair in the Vok Collection, see Pure Form: klassische Möbel aus China / Pure Form: Classical Chinese Furniture Vok collection, Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst Köln, Munich, 2004, pl. 10.
Sotheby's. Ming Furniture – The Dr S Y Yip Collection, Hong Kong, 07 October 2015