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A Fine and Rare Huanghuali Four-Poster Canopy Bed, Jiazichuang
A Fine and Rare Huanghuali Four-Poster Canopy Bed, Jiazichuang

17TH CENTURY

Details
A Fine and Rare Huanghuali Four-Poster Canopy Bed, Jiazichuang
17th Century
The rectangular mitred bed frame with soft mat seat supported on sturdy legs of circular section joined by humpbacked leg-encircling stretchers separated by oval braces set at regular intervals, the back and side railing panels each with interlocking circles carved of one piece of wood bordered above and below by carved circular braces, the upper canopy panels set with slightly squared oval braces separated by oval struts
83in. (210.8cm) high, 89in. (228cm.) wide, 62in. (157.5cm) deep

Lot Essay

Four-poster canopy beds in huanghuali are uncommon and the simple but arresting interlocked hoop motif on the present lot makes it all the more unusual. For a closely related example, with these interlocked hoops, but also interlocked double braces above them, refer to Ecke, Chinese Domestic Furniture, Rutland, Vermont and Tokyo, 1962, pl. 36, no. 24. The same bed, described as being in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, is also published in Journal of The Classical Chinese Furniture Society, Spring 1992, p. 11, fig. 9, in Sarah Handler's article, A Little World Made Cunningly: The Chinese Canopy Bed, where the author mentions that the interlocked circles appropriately symbolize eternal unity and marital harmony. For another four-poster bed with interlocked circular braces on the upper part of the railing refer to Wang Shixiang, Connoiseurship of Chinese Furniture, Hong Kong, 1990, vol. II, p. 134, C15.

The present example differs from the Sackler bed primarily in the upper canopy and the lower half. Instead of a plain apron with cabriole legs, this lot has a leg-encircling pieced apron with oval braces and straight legs. This gives the effect of airiness which is echoed in the openwork oval struts of the canopy. The use of the leg-encircling apron also refers to the decorative motifs of bamboo furniture.

It has been suggested that the four-poster bed was more likely to have been found in the men's apartments, with its ideal of 'pleasant refinement and elegant simplicity without stylish adornment', cited by Wen Zhenhang in Zhang wu zhi (Treatise on Superfluous Things) compiled in 1615-20. The six-poster 'wedding bed', often a dowry brought in with the bride, was more likely to be found in the women's quarters.
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