It is known that stools were more commonly used than other forms of seating during the Ming period and yet it is still quite rare to find matching pairs, such as the fine pair offered here. The form is simple and restrained while evoking an elegant presence.
Sarah Handler in Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Berkeley, 2001, pp. 82-102, evocatively explains the development of the use of the stool and its subsequent derivations and developments into chair forms. The author cites the earliest known depiction of the Chinese stool as an engraved fragment found on an incised bronze vessel from the Eastern Zhou period (770-221 B.C.). There appear to be few remaining examples of ancient Chinese stools, but we do begin to see representations again in Buddhist art in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. Handler, explains, ibid., "In a formal sense, every chair or table has a stool in it, even though additional elements may disguise the essential underlying form. Adding armrests conclusively changes a stool into a chair: expanding the dimensions of the stool's top produces a table. The stool's principle of support remains the same. The modest stool is ubiquitous and practical, and in the Chinese imagination has also made it beautiful in shape and surface."
Several examples of similar huanghuali stools dated to the 17th century are known, including a pair in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, illustrated by Robert D. Jacobsen and Nicholas Grindley in Classical Chinese Furniture, Minneapolis, 1999, pp. 38-9, no. 2. Another, albeit smaller rectangular huanghuali stool dated to the Ming dynasty, from the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts, is illustrated by Wang Shixiang in Classic Chinese Furniture: Ming and Early Qing Dynasties, Hong Kong, 1986, p. 61, no. 15. See, also, Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture: Ming and Early Qing Dynasties, vol. II, 1990, Hong Kong, p. 23, no. A16 and vol. I, pp. 27-31, where the author discusses the general form. Compare, also, the pair of similarly dated stools of almost identical height, but much smaller width and depth, sold at Christie's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2012, lot 2007.