each wood-pin hinge cabinet of typical mitered, mortise and tenon frame construction with an inset panel to the top, the outside edge of the frame double-cushion-molded with double beading, the similarly molded and beaded stiles mortise and tenoned into the frame splaying gently in both elevations towards the base, a narrow framed upper section enclosing two shaped openwork beaded panels of stylized lingzhi design on the front and shaped angular latticework on the sides, the single matched board side panels tongue and grooved into the side edges of the stiles, the tall well-figured matched door panels within mitered and cushion-molded, beaded frames, with four transverse stretchers, a central similarly beaded and molded removable stile, set with rectangular baitong mounts and pulls, all above a beaded apron with scrolling spandrels, the interior fitted with two shelves (2)
Collection of an American Diplomat. (by repute)
The present pair of cabinets is exceptional for the fine proportions, complex openwork carved panels and the extravagant use of attractively figured, matched boards for both front and side panels. Examples of tapered cabinets with latticework panels are extremely rare. No other cabinet with openwork panels similar to the present appears to be known. A related pair, close in proportion but with wider latticework panels that form separate doors, was sold in our London rooms, 27th October 1989, lot 40, and later joined the collection of the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture and was sold subsequently at Christie's New York, 19th September 1996, lot 92. The pair are illustrated in Wang Shixiang and Curtis Evarts, Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture
, Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 60 where Wang Shixiang notes that the only known comparable is an illustration of a cabinet in a private collection in Beijing, ibid
, p. 128. Like the present cabinet, the openwork panels of Wang Shixiang's illustrated example do not form separate doors but are an integral part of the two door structure. Additionally the pair formerly in the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture collection also have huanghuali
top panels and so, most likely, were not meant to be used with stands.
A larger square-corner cabinet with latticework upper doors is illustrated in Robert D. Jacobsen and Nicholas Grindley, Classical Chinese Furniture in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 1999, pl.47. Writing about the cabinet, Nicholas Grindley reiterates the rarity of the form and discusses latticework which he states was in use by the Han dynasty and that openwork carved in wood was done in one of two ways, by joining short pieces together or, as with the present example, by piercing a solid piece of wood, ibid, p. 138. Given the small size of the panels and the intricate designs, this makes the most sense. The disadvantage to this technique is that it does not allow for normal expansion and contraction, necessitating some repairs. Another related square-corner cabinet with an openwork-door upper cabinet and stand, of zitan, ascribed to the late 17th / early 18th century, possibly Yongzheng period, is illustrated in Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, Nicholas Grindley and Anita Christy, Chinese Furniture, One Hundred Examples from the Mimi and Raymond Hung Collection, New York, 1996, pl. 79.
The lozenge latticework on the side panels is known from other examples. A stand with the same pattern forming the back panel is illustrated in Wang Shixiang, Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture, Hong Kong, 1990, pl. D8 where it is noted that the Ming dynasty scholar Ji Cheng refers to the motif in his famous book, Yuan Ye (The Craft of Gardens) as bowen (wave pattern).