Lot 24. A huanghuali rounded-corners cabinet, yuanjiao gui, Ming dynasty, 17th century; 110 x 69 x 43 cm, 43¼ by 27⅛ by 17 in. Estimate: 60,000 - 80,000 EUR. Lot sold: 126,000 EUR. Courtesy Sotheby's.
the rounded projecting four frame members set above the rectangular recessed top panel, joined by four round posts at each corner forming the tapered silhouette, the pair of single panel doors with wooden dowels fitting into sockets in the upper frame and lower front rail, above a plain narrow apron with curved spandrels, with baitong plates, pulls and pin, the interior divided into three shelves and a pair of drawers.
Provenance: An old French aristocratic collection.
Note: One of the most ingenious and beautiful designs of classic Chinese furniture is the sloping-stile, wood-hinged cabinet. The four main stiles are recessed from the corners of the top and slope gently outward in a subtle, almost imperceptible splay. This simple design feature gives the cabinet its refined elegance and a sense of balance and stability.
The doors, with extended dowels on both ends, fit into sockets in the cabinet frame members and act as hinges. Free from the necessity of applied hinges, the clean lines of the cabinet are not interfered with. The rectangular metal plates with their lock receptacles and door pulls not only serve a practical function, but are also judiciously placed as decoration for the otherwise completely plain piece.
Cabinets of this type, with the characteristic round-corners, are known as yuanjiaogui and was widely made throughout the Ming and Qing period. For detailed information on the development of Chinese cabinets see Sarah Handler, ‘Cabinets and Shelves Containing All Things in China’, Journal of the Classical Chinese Furniture Society, Winter, 1993, pp 4-29, where the author illustrates a large yuanjiaogui from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, and notes that cabinets of this type became more common on domestic furniture from the 15th century (see p. 13). Another similar cabinet is in the collections of the musée national des arts asiatiques, Guimet, illustrated in Cécile et Michel Beurdeley, Le Mobilier Chinois. Le Guide du Connaisseur, Fribourg, 1979, no. 128 p. 93, where it is described as a 'bookcase with three shelves and two drawers', shu gui.
Compare also a contrasting wood round-corner cabinet of related proportions, sold in our New York rooms, 20th March 2019, lot 706, and another sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 3rd October 2017, lot 3645.
Sotheby's. Arts d'Asie, Paris, 10 juin 2021