• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2711

    The Imperial Sale, Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

    27 May 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1814

    A VERY RARE EMBELLISHED BLACK LACQUER ROUND-CORNER TAPERED CABINET, YUANJIAOGUI

    Price Realised  

    A VERY RARE EMBELLISHED BLACK LACQUER ROUND-CORNER TAPERED CABINET, YUANJIAOGUI
    MING DYNASTY, 17TH CENTURY

    The protruding top with beaded, rounded edges, supported on corner posts of rounded section, all inlaid with a leafy scroll framing the removable center stile and panel doors, further inlaid with mother-of-pearl, hardstone and coloured glass on the black ground with dragonflies, birds, and butterflies, alighting on fruiting pomegranate branches issuing from rockwork, with flowering begonia stems on the right, blossoming prunus with birds, butterflies, bamboo, rockwork and rose bushes to the left, the side panels with butterflies alighting on flowering stems, all above plain aprons and apron-head spandrels, the brass pulls pierced with wan emblems and the feet fitted with brass shoes
    53 1/2 x 31 x 17 1/2 in. (135.9 x 79 x 44.5 cm)


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    Surviving examples of late Ming dynasty inlaid lacquer furniture are exceedingly rare. The present lot is a masterpiece of its type, elegantly lacquered and inlaid with a finely composed naturalistic scene well suited to the scholarly taste of the period. Compare a similarly inlaid black lacquer compound cabinet illustrated by H. Cescinsky in Chinese Furniture: A Series of Examples From Collections in France, London, 1922, pl. IX. Two other similarly inlaid cabinets are also illustrated by M. Beurdeley, Chinese Furniture, New York, p.119, pl.161 (detail) and p. 121, pl. 164. For a further discussion on the Zhouzhi inlay tradition see C. Evarts, 'The Zhouzhi Tradition and Inlaid Hardwood Furnishings of the Late Ming and Qing Dynasties', Liang Yi Collection, Vol. 3, Hong Kong 2007, pp. 62-77.

    The present cabinet is especially rich in symbolism, and suggests that it may have been commissioned or given as a gift to celebrate a marriage. The two birds on the left door of the cabinet may represent magpies, which atop a plum tree form the rebus Xishang meishao, or 'May your joy reach up to the top of your eyebrows.' The addition of the bamboo, combined with magpies and plum, forms the rebus: Zhumei shuangxi, or 'Double happiness for the bride and groom.' However, the birds may also be interpreted as the thrush, which together with roses and rocks form the rebus: Changchun baitou, or 'May husband and wife enjoy old age together.'

    The iconography present on the right door is equally auspicious. Pomegranates, with their numerous seeds, symbolise fertility and the arrival of numerous offspring, while its red blossoms were believed to ward off evil. The dragonfly and begonia form the rebus: Heqing haiyan, or 'May there be peace in the universe.' The butterflies, present on both the doors and sides of the cabinet, fluttering amidst flowers, form the rebus: Dielianhua, symbolising joy, love and good fortune.

    The complex symbolism and strong wishes conveyed through the numerous rebuses, together with the refined and understated elegance in both form and subject matter of the present lot, place it amongst the finest of the examples of inlaid lacquer furniture from this period.

    Provenance

    Robert Hatfield Ellsworth
    Alice Boney, Tokyo
    Lee Yu-Kuan (Sammy Lee)
    The Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Important Chinese Works of Art from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, sold at Christie's New York, 1 December 1994, lot 181


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM THE MIMI AND RAYMOND HUNG COLLECTION


    Literature

    Lee Yu-Kuan, Oriental Lacquer Art, Tokyo and New York, 1972, pp. 316-7, no. 242
    Lark E. Mason, Orientations, 'Examples of Ming Furniture in American Collections Formed Prior to 1980', January, 1992, p.77, fig. 6
    Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, Chinese Furniture: One Hundred Examples from the Mimi and Raymond Hung Collection, New York, 1996, p.198, no.78
    Michael Knight, Orientations, 'Chinese Lacquered Wood Furniture: Two Examples from the Collection of Mimi and Raymond Hung', January 1998, pp. 236-245


    Exhibited

    Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 17 January - 6 September 1998
    Hong Kong Museum of Art, In Pursuit of Antiquities - 40th Anniversary Exhibition of the Min Chiu Society, Hong Kong, 2001, illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 243