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Paire de fauteuils en huanghuali, sichutou guanmaoyi, XVIIe siècle. Estimation 120,000150,000 EUR. Photo Sotheby’s

la traverse supérieure busquée aux saillies arrondies jointe à un dossier lisse rectangulaire galbé, les accotoirs courbés soutenus par des montants frontaux en col de cygne, les quatre pieds tubulaires liés entre eux par des traverses décalées, l’assise renforcée par une traverse soutenue par un élégant tablier à cuspide et des pendants de tablier en dos d’âne, le bois enrichi d’une belle patine d’âge brillante (2); 108,2 x 56 x 50 cm; 42 3/4  by 22 by 19 3/4  in.


PROVENANCE: With Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, New York.
Acquired from Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, New York, 6th March 1980.

Note: The elegantly scrolling crestrails terminating in beautifully modelled rounded ends on this pair of armchairs illustrate why chairs of this type are called guanmaoyi or ‘official hat-shaped chairs’, the name derived from their resemblance to the winged hat that was part of the formal attire of Ming officials.  In the hierarchy of seating arrangements, they retained a connotation of status and authority and were generally positioned as a seat of high status. Analysing 17th century woodblock prints, Craig Clunas in Chinese Furniture, London, 1988, p. 20. notes that they often occupied a prominent position within the central hall of a large compound, an important space reserved for receiving and entertaining visitors.

Though sumptuory regulations regulated much of Chinese society, the late Ming period saw the rise of a prosperous merchant class that was able to gain access or purchase official rank through their wealth. Such was the fashion among the wealthy yet uneducated merchant class to furnish their large homes with precious hardwood furniture that publications on connoisseurship such as the early 17th century Treatise on Superfluous Things, Zhangwu zhi, by Wen Zhengheng devoted a whole section to furniture and another chapter to its correct placing, see Hugh Moss, Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, Hong Kong, 1986, p. 146, no. 120.

One of the most popular types of armchairs, many examples of yokeback armchairs have survived in public and private collections. Compare, for example a similar pair from the Kai-Yin Lo Collection, illustrated in Wang Shixiang, Classical and Vernacular Furniture in the Living Environment, Hong Kong, 1998, p. 114, no. 9.

Sotheby’s. Arts d’Asie. Paris | 11 déc. 2014, 10:30 AM