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A RARE AND IMPORTANT PAIR OF HUANGHUALI FOLDING STOOLS, JIAOYI

LATE 17TH/EARLY 18TH CENTURY

Details
A RARE AND IMPORTANT PAIR OF HUANGHUALI FOLDING STOOLS, JIAOYI
Late 17th/Early 18th Century
The two halves of the frame of the rectangular slatted seat sharing a central member carved with a pair of baitong-reinforced tenons at either end fitting into the corresponding mortises of each half-frame to allow the two sections to fold down into a flattened position on either side of the lifted central member when the hinged legs are uncrossed, the stability of the open stool reinforced by a small rectangular frame tenoned into the underside of the central member and locking into the junction of the legs for greater support, the seat frame with beaded curvilinear side members carved with lively chi dragons which "wrap around" the corners to the ends of the front and back members also carved with confronted dragons, the two pairs of legs of round section joined at mid-point by baitong hinges with ruyi-head ends and chrysanthemum-shaped washers, the legs terminating in square-section base stretchers, the base mounts of conforming design, the pivoted footrest with baitong mounts of three interlocking lozenges enclosed by ruyi-shaped brackets and attached by boss-head nails
19½in. (49.5cm.) high, 22¼in. (56.2cm.) wide, 19¼in. (49cm.) deep
(2)
Literature
Curtis Evarts, ''Classical Chinese Furniture in the Piccus Collection'', JCCFS, Autumn 1992, p. 7, fig. 7
Post Lot Text
See illustrations on following two pages and detail on preceding page

Lot Essay

To date, only four huanghuali examples of this type of stool have been recorded, including the present pair. Wang Shixiang illustrates one from the Tianjin Museum of Art in Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture, vol. II, p. 32, fig. A42. The other, which has silver-inlaid iron mounts, but no carving of the edge of the seat frame, was included in the exhibition, The Beauty of Huanghuali, and illustrated by John Kwang Ming Ang in the Catalogue, pp. 19-20, figs. 2-2.3

The four stools appear to be related to a group of folding horseshoeback armchairs with similar construction and either carving on the front edge of the seat frame similar to the present pair of stools and the Tianjin stool, or metal mounts similar to all four folding stools. The folding armchairs are in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City and in the Cheng Mengjia Collection, Beijing; both illustrated by Sarah Handler, "The Elegant Vagabond: The Chinese Folding Chair", Orientations, January 1992, pp. 90-96. The third, in the Palace Museum, Beijing is illustrated in Zhongguo meishu quanji; gongyi meishu bian; zhumu ya jiaoqi (The Great Treasury of Chinese Fine Arts; Arts and Crafts; Objects of Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Horn), vol. 11, p. 127. A fourth, illustrated by Wang et al., Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, pp. 47-48, no. 3, was sold in these rooms September 19, 1996, lot 50 and a fifth was sold at Sotheby's, New York September 18, 1996, lot 311

Compare, also, the more simple versions of these stools with a similar footrest but a woven seat and no vertical supporting member, illustrated by Robert Ellsworth, Nicholas Grindley and Anita Christy, Chinese Furniture: One Hundred Examples from the Mimi and Raymond Hung Collection, pp. 42-43, no. I; by Grace Wu Bruce, Chinese Classical Furniture, p. 10, fig. 10; and from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, sold in these rooms September 19, 1996, lot 95. Examples with woven seats and no footrests were included in the exhibition, The Dr. S. Y. Yip Collection of Classic Chinese Furniture, and illustrated by Grace Wu Bruce in the Catalogue, no. 11; by Ang, op. cit., fig. 1; and by Wang, op. cit., p. 32, no. A39

Although the stools in the present lot do not fold as flat as the usual woven seat type, the ingenious design and slatted wooden surface make them considerably stronger, which perhaps supports the idea that these stools were also used to mount and dismount horses as suggested by Chen Zengbi, ''A Unique Folding Stool for Mounting Horses'', JCCFS, Autumn 1992, pp. 51-53

For a history of the folding stool in China, refer to Wang et al., Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, p. 30. See, also, Wu Tung, ''From Imported 'Nomadic Seat' to Chinese Folding Armchair'', JCCFS, Spring 1993, pp. 38-47
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