Of all classical Chinese furniture offered at the coming spring sales, a number of huanghuali works with impeccable provenance, which will be offered at Christie's Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Sale in New York, have drawn attention from collectors.
Preeminent New York dealer, Robert H. Ellsworth
They are all from the Raymond Hung Collection, one of the most comprehensive and celebrated collections of Chinese furniture in Asia. The collection was shaped by preeminent New York dealer, Robert H. Ellsworth, who with the publication of his 1971 Chinese Furniture: Hardwood Examples from the Ming and Early Ch’ing Dynasty inspired a new generation of scholars and collectors to the field.
Estimated at US$1m-1.5m, the top lot of the sale is a Huanghuali Six-Poster Canopy Bed, Jiazichuang, from the 17th-18th century. In contrast to the day-bed (ta) or couch-bed (luohanchuang), which were often found in scholar’s studio or bedroom, the canopy bed was generally associated with the female setting.
Canopy beds appear to have been closely influenced by architectural construction. They are the only form of furniture noted in the Ming dynasty carpenter’s manual Lu Ban Jing to have used auspicious measurements that were also employed for buildings. The current example is carved with auspicious symbols such as the lingzhi fungus and chilong, thought to bring longevity and peace to the owner.
Another great example offered at the sale is a Large and Rare Boxwood-Inlaid Huanghuali Twelve-Panel Screen, Weiping, from the 18th-19th century, carrying an estimate of US$400,000 - 600,000.
It required a large quantity of timber for the construction of large screens of the present type. Its rarity is also marked by the fragility of their carved openwork decoration. The current example artfully employs carved boxwood inlay for the scenes of antiques in the top register and luohan along the sides and across the bottom register, its light color visually contrasting with the darker huanghuali frame.
The following one is a Large Nanmu-Inset Huanghuali 'Official's Hat' Armchair, Sichutouguanmaoyi from the 17th-18th century, carrying an estimate of US$200,000 - 300,000.
The tall and supportive S-shaped splat and horizontal arm rails encourage the sitter to hold himself in an upright posture, and the spreading curved crestrail with tear-drop-shaped ends behind the sitter’s head. In the present chair, that sense of powerful verticality is also enhanced by the topmost splat panel, which is carved with a ruyi motif pointed upwards. The curves of the crestrail, arm rails, and stiles, however, and the aperture at the base of the splat, known in Chinese as the liangjiao (base-brightening panel), provide balance to the verticality and rigidity of the tall splat and supporting posts.
The presence of the carved nanmu panel in the center of the splat depicting a coiled dragon amidst clouds is very rare. It is not uncommon for the splats of 'official's hat' armchairs to be segmented into different sections, and there are many extant examples with burl, marble or huanghuali panels. There are relatively few examples, however, with relief-carved nanmu panels, particularly those carved with dragons.
The last one we are going to introduce is a Huanghuali Balance Stand, Tianpingja, from the 17th-18 century, with an estimate of US$70,000 - 90,000. Scales were essential for use in the Ming dynasty when silver was the main form of currency, and were found in shops throughout China. A 17th-century woodblock illustration from the Jin Ping Mei shows a balance stand in use at a silk shop (image above). This particular example is distinguished by its brass scales.
Highlighted Huanghuali Furniture from the Raymond Hung Collection
A Very Rare Huanghuali Six-Poster Canopy Bed, Jiazichuang
Lot no.: 952
Size: 221 x 226 x 157.5cm
Estimate: US$1,000,000 - 1,500,000
A Large And Rare Boxwood Inlaid Huanghuali Twelve-Panel Screen, Weiping
Lot no.: 953
Size: 338.5 x 58.7 x 3.2cm
Estimate: US$400,000 - 600,000
A Rare Large Nanmu-Inset Huanghuali 'Official's Hat' Armchair, Sichutouguanmaoyi
Lot no.: 951
Size: 118.1 x 62.2 x 56.5cm
Estimate: US$200,000 - 300,000
A Large and Rare Huanghuali Balance Stand, Tianpingjia
Lot no.: 949
Size: 68.6 x 54.6 x 18.4cm
Estimate: US$70,000 - 90,000
Auction house: Christie's New York
Sale: Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art
Lot offered: 287
2018/3-16 - 17｜10am - 5pm
2018/3/18｜1pm - 5pm
2018/3/19-20｜10am - 5pm
2018/3/21｜10am - 2pm
2018/3/22｜2pm (Lot 701 - 839)
2018/3/23｜10am (Lot 901 - 986)
2018/3/23｜2pm (Lot 987 - 1048)