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A RARE LARGE HUANGHUALI CONTINUOUS HORSESHOE-BACK ARMCHAIR, QUANYI
A RARE LARGE HUANGHUALI CONTINUOUS HORSESHOE-BACK ARMCHAIR, QUANYI

17TH-18TH CENTURY

Details
A RARE LARGE HUANGHUALI CONTINUOUS HORSESHOE-BACK ARMCHAIR, QUANYI
17TH-18TH CENTURY
The crest rail forms a continuous, elegant curve above the supporting S-shaped splat and back stiles before curving downwards in a sinuous line to join the tops of the front legs which, like the back stiles, continue through the wide rectangular seat frame. The inner edges of the rounded legs and the underside of the seat enclose a three-sided framework with curved corners at the top which extends down to the stretchers, all positioned at the same low level above humpbacked stretchers.
36 5/8 in. (93.5 cm.) high, 27 ½ in. (70 cm.) wide, 18 ½ in. (47 cm.) deep
Provenance
Ronald Longsdorf, Hong Kong.
Literature
Marcus Flacks, Classical Chinese Furniture: A Very Personal Point of View, London, 2011, pp. 59-63.
Marcus Flacks, Zhongguo gu dian jia ju si fang guan dian, Beijing, 2012.

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Margaret Gristina (葛曼琪)
Margaret Gristina (葛曼琪) Senior Specialist, VP, Head of Private Sales New York

Lot Essay

Except for the seat and trimming strips, this chair appears to be completely original, with an exemplary choice of wood. This is seen not only in the attractive figuring of the wood in the back-splat but also in the way in which the grain in some of the sections of the crest rail flows into the others. Although the chair is generously proportioned, with an unusually wide seat, there is no sense of heaviness. The absence of side posts, superb proportions, well-considered placement of the simple members and the low position of the stretchers above further humpbacked stretchers creates a lightness that belies the size of the chair. This quality is enhanced by the open upper corners of the humpbacked stretchers which complement those of the framework inside the legs creating an open box-like structure above which the seat almost appears to float. The use of additional members inside the legs and below the stretchers was a method used in the making of bamboo and cane furniture to give it additional strength and durability. This type of construction used for modest materials inspired the furniture makers of the Ming dynasty to copy its techniques and appearance in more precious materials, such as huanghuali.

This chair represents a very rare version of the continuous horseshoe-back armchair, as it has no supporting side stiles below the armrests, leaving the space completely open, thereby emphasizing the pure line of their sinuous curve. A similar chair is depicted beside a table in a detail of a woodblock print illustration from the Shuihu zhuan (The Water Margin), Wanli period (1573-1619), illustrated by Wangshixiang and Curtis Evarts in Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, Chinese Art Foundation, 1995, p. 60, where a related huanghuali continuous horseshoe-back armchair without side stiles is also illustrated, p. 61, pl. 28. Unlike the present chair, the curved ends of the armrests take a somewhat sharp curve backwards into the seat frame rather than continuing down into the front legs as they do on the present chair, and this curve encloses a shaped spandrel. A more similar chair of this type is illustrated by Gustav Ecke in Chinese Domestic Furniture, Rutland, Vermont/Tokyo, Japan, 1962, pl. 106, no. 85. The upper part of the chair appears similar, but the lower section has humpbacked stretchers joined to the seat frame by posts and rather than the lower stretchers all being at the same low level, they are at different heights on the sides, and back, with a foot rail above an apron at the front. Also illustrated, pl. 97, no. 76, is a square stool with bamboo-style construction that includes humpbacked stretchers below the bottom stretchers, which are very similar to those of the present chair.

This is a rare chair whose combination of design elements appears to be unique.

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