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Details & Cataloguing

Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art

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A RARE HUANGHUALI ROUND-CORNERED TAPERED CABINET (YUANJIAOGUI)
MING DYNASTY, 17TH CENTURY
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of typical miter, mortise and tenon frame construction with an inset lacquered softwood panel top with two transverse stretchers, the outside edge of the frame is double cushion molded, the similarly molded posts are double lock mortise and tenoned into this frame and splay gently in both elevations towards the base, the single board side panels are tongue and grooved into the side edges of the stiles, the wood pin hinged doors contained within mitered and cushion molded frames have four transverse stretchers, the front panels with matched grain and with small huamu medial elliptical panels outlined by a finely beaded foliate border, with a central matching removable central stile, the interior with two shelves, the surface mounted baitong plates, bosses and pulls retained by a pin, the front feet with baitong covers
Height 68 1/4  in., 173.3 cm; Width 35 1/4  in., 89.5 cm; Depth 18 in., 45.7 cm
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Description

The present example is notable for the lavish addition of multi-lobed posts and the elegantly framed burlwood reserves. The extravagant use of wood and added demand on the craftsman to create such finely molded members is a rare phenomenon. A very similar cabinet but lacking the double-cushion molded posts and frame, formerly in the Collection of Ambassador Milton Freeman, was sold in these rooms 25th April 1987, lot 515. A related cabinet but with burlwood reserves at both the mid-section and base is illustrated in Wan Shixiang, Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture, Hong Kong, 1990, vol. 11, D27.

Lacking closets, cabinets were the main storage areas for the Ming and Qing elite. Given the size and function of this form, its prominence in any room, the choice of wood and any surface decoration served to enhance and declare status. A tremendous amount of consideration went into providing the critical balance between form and function for these large pieces.  Li Yu (1611-1680) in his Xian Qing Ou Ji (Notes Written in a Moment of Idleness) comments  at some length about the correct number of boards, shelves and drawers in order to make the best use of space exclaiming, "A cabinet of small size but high capacity is excellent." The present cabinet would certainly have met with his approval.

Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art

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New York