137
137

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT COLLECTION

AN EXTREMELY RARE AND LARGE HUANGHUALI YOKE-BACK ARMCHAIR, CHANYI
LATE MING DYNASTY
JUMP TO LOT
137

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT COLLECTION

AN EXTREMELY RARE AND LARGE HUANGHUALI YOKE-BACK ARMCHAIR, CHANYI
LATE MING DYNASTY
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Monochrome

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Hong Kong

AN EXTREMELY RARE AND LARGE HUANGHUALI YOKE-BACK ARMCHAIR, CHANYI
LATE MING DYNASTY
constructed with a fluidly shaped top rail with the centre serving as a headrest and flanked by flaring ends, the plain back splat tongue-and-grooved into the underside of the top rail and back member of the seat frame, the round stiles tennoned into the top rail and passing through the seat and becoming the legs, the elongated S-shaped arms mortised and tennoned into the stiles and similarly S-shaped front posts with small shaped spandrels tongue-and-grooved to the underside of the arms where they meet the posts, the seat of standard mitre, mortise and tenon construction with exposed tenons on the short sides, all above a plain straight apron, the side and back aprons similarly constructed, the legs joined by a footrail in front with a plain apron beneath, the sides and back with stretchers
123 by 84 by 76 cm, 48 3/8  by 33 by 29 7/8  in.
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Catalogue Note

This yoke-back armchair is particularly notable for its large size and appears to be among the tallest chairs of its type recorded. Despite its large proportions, a sense of lightness is captured through the gentle curves of the top rail and the S-curve of the tall back splat. The latter forces its occupant to sit upright, thus endowing him with an air of authority and prestige.

Chairs of this design and proportions are discussed by Sarah Handler in Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Berkeley, 2001, p. 57, where she notes that the 15th-century carpenter’s manual Lu Ban jing [Classic of Lu Ban], refers to these chairs as chanyi, or meditation chairs, as their size was suitable for sitting and meditating in the lotus position. An illustration of a chanyi is reproduced by Wang Shixiang in '"Lu Ban jing jiangjia jingjiaju tiaokuan chushi [An initial study on the descriptions of furniture in the Mirror of Craftsmanship and Guidelines by Lu Ban]', Palace Museum Journal, 1980, vol. 3, fig. 16, together with a line drawing of chanyi, fig. 17 (fig. 1).

The design appears to have evolved from chairs used by Buddhist monks from as early as the Tang dynasty, such as one depicted in the wall painting of Cave 196 at the Dunhuang cave complex in Gansu province, and illustrated ibid., fig. 4.2. Similar chairs are depicted in Ming dynasty paintings and woodblock illustrations, such as one in the 14th-century drama Pipa ji [Tale of the pipa] by the scholar Gao Ming (c.1305-1370) (fig. 2).

A slightly smaller chair of this design in the Haven collection was included in the exhibition Classical Chinese Huanghuali Furniture, University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2016, cat. no. 11; another is illustrated in Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, Chinese Furniture, New York, 1971, pl. 1; and a pair was sold at Christie’s New York, 2nd December 1986, lot 401. Compare also a pair of chairs of slightly larger proportions, but the legs with arched-shaped aprons, sold in our New York rooms, 20th March 2012, lot 142; and a chair with square-section members, formerly in the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, illustrated in Sarah Handler, op.cit., pl. 4.18, and sold at Christie’s New York, 19th September 1996, lot 53.

Monochrome

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Hong Kong