Search for over 100 million sold objects in our Price Bank

A superb and very rare pair of huanghuali square-corner cabinets, fangjiaogui
Sold

About the object

A SUPERB AND VERY RARE PAIR OF HUANGHUALI SQUARE-CORNER CABINETS, FANGJIAOGUI\n\n17TH-18TH CENTURY\n\nThe top panel is set into a rectangular frame, which is of rounded, square section and is supported by rounded legs of square section joined by a shaped, beaded apron. The two-panel doors which have an attractive grain and are marked throughout with 'ghost faces,' open to reveal the shelved interior and five drawers. The back is set with two removable huanghuali panels. All panels including the top, the shelves and drawer liners are constructed from finely grained huanghuali.\n\n70 7/8 in. (179.9 cm.) high, 47 ¼ in. (120 cm.) wide, 21 5/8 in. (54.9 cm.) deep
GB
GB
GB

notes

THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR

The present cabinets, with their restrained and minimalist ornamentation, elegant proportions, and extravagant use of beautifully-grained huanghuali, epitomize the highest ideals of classical Ming furniture. Constructed entirely from high-quality huanghuali wood chosen for its golden honey tones, the cabinets’ large, flat surfaces show off the natural beauty of the densely-grained wood, with copious examples of ‘ghost faces’ – natural whorls in the grain that resemble faces.

The current cabinets eschew any superfluous ornamentation, with the beaded edge along the plain apron and spandrels towards the feet and the polished baitong mounts the only accommodation towards decoration. Instead, the eye is drawn to the beauty of the material, and the subtle rounded edges and corners that lend the cabinets a softened, organic feel. While it is not uncommon to find cabinets with beaded or molded edges, it is extremely rare to see rounded edges and corners, and the present pair are perhaps the only known extant examples.

The aforementioned rounded corners, and the fact that the top panel is constructed from huanghuali, mean that it is unlikely the present cabinets ever had associated hat chests, additional storage chests that are stacked above square-corner cabinets and hold additional items of clothing. Due to the absence of hat chests, it is likely these cabinets inhabited a scholar’s studio - where they would have held painting supplies or precious antiques - rather than a bedroom. Square-corner cabinets with flush-panel doors without hat chests appear to be very rare. A cabinet of this type without a hat chest can be seen in a handscroll depicting The Qianlong Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour, dated to 1770, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. (Fig. 1) A pair in the Lu Ming Shi Collection, although with removable center-stiles and cabinet cavities (guitang), were exhibited at the Musée Guimet in 2003 and illustrated by J. Desroches in Ming: The Golden Age of Chinese Furniture, Paris, 2003, pp. 196-97, no. 63. A single square-corner cabinet with flush-panel doors, again with a removable center-stile but with shaped aprons, originally from the Vok Collection, is illustrated by N. Grindley, Pure Form: Classical Chinese Furniture – Vok Collection, Munich, 2004, no. 2.

The luxurious use of precious huanghuali, including on the removable back panels, top panels, shelves, and drawer lines, indicates the present cabinets were commissioned by a wealthy individual. The rarity, and thus cost, of huanghuali meant that in most cabinets, the top and back panels and the shelves and drawer liners were usually constructed from a less expensive softwood, as these elements were rarely visible. Only those with the most exacting tastes, and deepest pockets, would demand that all elements of the cabinet be constructed from huanghuali, as is the case with the present pair. A comparable case is the magnificent pair of zitan cabinets in the Liang Yi Collection, which have zitan frames but huanghuali removable backs, shelves, drawer liners, and top panels, illustrated by Curtis Evarts, Liang Yi Collection: Zitan, Hong Kong, 2007, p. 101, no. 34. Evarts posits that the Liang Yi pair could have possibly been associated with the Palace during the late Ming dynasty, due to the lavish use of precious timber. Although it is impossible to make the same assertion with the present pair of cabinets, the original owner would certainly have had to have been extremely wealthy to afford such an expensive commission.

The quality of the huanghuali timber is also one of the defining features of the present cabinets. The color, a golden amber hue, is even throughout both cabinets, indicating they were constructed from the same lengths of wood. Furthermore, the large panels of the doors and removable backs sport abundant ‘ghost face’ knots, which are highly prized for their beauty. Such designs are rarely seen on large pieces of furniture, mostly being found in small desk objects, such as a huanghuali brush pot from The Ian and Susan Wilson Collection of Scholar’s Objects, sold at Christie’s New York, 17 March 2016, lot 1101.

Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.

THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR

origin

17TH-18TH CENTURY

literature

S. Handler, Ming Furniture In the Light of Chinese Architecture, Berkeley, 2005, pp. 186-87 and back cover.

lot_number

941

provenance

Ming Furniture, Ltd., New York, 1994.


*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.


Advert
Advert