Lot 19
  • 19

A RARE AND EXCEPTIONAL HUANGHUALI BAMBOO-STYLE HORSESHOE-BACK ARMCHAIR (QUANYI) 17TH / 18TH CENTURY

Estimate
120,000 - 150,000 USD
Sold
bidding is closed

Description

  • Wood
  • Height 38 in; Width 25 1/2 in; Depth 18 3/4 in
each of the cylindrical members superbly and naturalistically carved with characteristic notched 'nodes' to resemble bamboo stalks, with a wide and well-rounded crestrail comprised of five scarf-joined members and set on straight back posts continuing through the seat frame forming the back legs and set to either side with slender spandreled supports, centered by a wide rectangular tripartite splat comprised of a quadrilobed openwork chilong medallion carved both front and back, a burl wood center panel and an openwork spandreled apron, the arms extending beyond the frame terminating in truncated outscrolled ends and supported by elegantly bowed slender side posts and straight front posts, each augmented by a slim reed-form spandrel, continuing through the beaded, molded frame to form the front legs, the rectangular frame fitted for a soft mat seat, now hard-matted, supported underneath by a pair of filled bowed transverse stretchers, supported on legs of circular section, reinforced by thin, rounded openwork spandreled aprons and same height stretchers over further openwork spandreled aprons on each side and on the front rail 

Exhibited

Classical Chinese Wood Furniture, San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum, San Francisco, 1992, cat. no. 6 (and on front cover). 

Literature

Curtis Evarts, 'The San Francisco Symposium on Classical Chinese Wood Furniture', Journal of the Classical Chinese Furniture Society, Winter, 1992, p. 5 and fig. 3.
Sarah Handler, 'Outstanding Pieces in Private Rooms: Chinese Classical Furniture in New American Collections', Orientations, January, 1993, pl. 9.

Catalogue Note

This extraordinary armchair, ingeniously carved to resemble bamboo and of open and elegant form, is one of only six known. Four are in the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, one of which is illustrated in Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, Chinese Furniture: Hardwood Examples of the Ming and Early Ching Dynasties, New York, 1971, pl. 16 and again in Wang Shixiang, Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture, Hong Kong, 1980, pl. A85. Wang Shixiang writes at length about the chair, opining that the openwork carved chilong medallion is inspired by a jade prototype, and observes that the bamboo-form spandrels are asymmetrical, describing this naturalistic touch as a "bold creative stroke", as well as admiring the sensitivity and skill of the craftsman who carved the 'nodes' closer together on the more slender 'younger' 'stalks' and farther apart on the 'older' thicker segments, ibid, vol. I, p. 44. Another single chair of this group is reputed to be in a private collection in Seattle, Washington. The present armchair is truly remarkable for the expansive enveloping arc of the top rail, echoed by the bend of the side supports, evoking the pliant nature of tender bamboo stalks. 

A pair of 17th/18th century spindle-back bamboo-style 'rose' chairs, exhibiting the same quality of fine carving is in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and is illustrated in Robert D. Jacobsen and Nicholas Grindley, Classical Chinese Furniture in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 1999, pl. 6, where the author notes that bamboo models of lowback armchairs were in use as early as the Song dynasty, ibid, p. 66. Inexpensive, lightweight, pliable and durable, bamboo has proven to be an ideal medium for furniture. The allure of untamed nature combined with the humble yet beautiful qualities of bamboo appealed to the scholarly elite. To recreate the delicate, slender stalks in a precious hardwood, allowed the aristocracy and literati to ruminate on nature amidst luxury. 

A pair of horseshoe-back armchairs of similar form but not in bamboo style, from the Dr. S. Y. Yip Collection, was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 7th October 2015, lot 104.
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