The form of the current pair of cabinets stands out as a truly exquisite example of its type, all the rarer for being a pair. The simplicity and elegance of form of these cabinets is in the classical Ming style. The very subtle splay in its design lends a sense of stability and balance to the form while retaining a very graceful and pleasing profile. The form was widely used in cabinet making throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Of special note on the present cabinets is the choice of wood used for the floating panels on the doors. The distinctive figuration on the four broad, single panels indicates that they were cut from the same piece of timber, and the energetic movement of the grain suggests it may have incorporated a large burl. The panels are fitted with the grain set at opposing mirror image, thus giving a sense of drama and motion to the cabinets. The careful matching of the door suggests that the cabinet-maker intentionally designed the cabinets to feature the natural markings of the wood and had a sensitivity for materials. It is rare to find cabinets of this large size with such deliberate and careful use of the natural markings in the wood.
Numeric markings on the inner frame of the cabinets, reading one on one cabinet and four on the other, suggest that the cabinets
were originally part of a larger set of four cabinets.
A slightly larger pair of cabinets (184 cm. high) is illustrated by Wang Shixiang and Curtis Evarts, Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, Chicago and San Francisco, 1995, pp. 130-31, no. 61, and was later sold at Christie’s, New York, 19 September 1996, lot 19. This pair was of very similar construction to the present pair from the Hung Collection, the aprons are left undecorated, the posts and frame members are square with no moulding.