Robust sales of huanghuali furniture dating to the Ming and Qing dynasties took the room by surprise at this morning’s Sotheby’s Monochrome Chinese antique sale.
The sale netted a healthy total of HK$258m over the course of 39 lots, boosted by a group of 10 Ming and Qing furniture that achieved an impressive HK$167m, accounting for 65 percent of its total sale.
Estimated at HK$75.2m to HK$105.5m, the auction was off to a subdued start but soon began humming as the huanghuali furniture went up for sell. The bulk of the furniture on offer were hammered down significantly above estimate, with three of them topping the sale.
The crown jewel at the auction was a rare huanghuali recessed-leg long table. With an approachable estimate of HK$3m, the lot rocketed to HK$25m before coming to a showdown between two telephone bidders via Sotheby's Asia Chairman Nicolas Chow and Modern Chinese Paintings specialist Annie Wong.
The bidding continued to climb in HK$1m increments before being sold to Chow’s client at HK$5.2m hammer, 12 times its presale estimate. With premium the price came to HK$60m.
Huanghuali is a type of yellowish rosewood that exudes a sweet-smelling aroma. Furniture made out of huanghuali has been increasingly coveted due to the scarcity of the timber, which is mainly produced in Hainan province and in Southeast Asia. Huanghuali, along with zitan, were the favoured timbers of the Ming and Qing courts.
The second biggest price tag of the sale, the rare huanghuali “Kui Dragon” couch-bed, sparked a prolonged battle between a telephone client via Sotheby's Asia CEO Kevin Ching and several floor bidders.
Starting at around HK$3m, the bidding went swiftly up to HK$19m, followed by 24 bids in half-million-dollar small increments that shoved the price up to HK$34m. The lot was finally seized by Ching’s client with a HK$41m hammer, more than eight times its HK$5m high estimate, and with premium the price came to HK$48.7m.
Measuring 201.2 by 122.7 cm, the rectangular couch-seat features a back panel slightly higher than the side panels, a design that was considered the most elegant back in the Ming dynasty. Couch-bed was popular among educated class in the Ming and early Qing dynasties, mostly used for receiving guests and taking naps. Furniture during that period was sophisticated under the influence of the growing educated class.
The third highest priced work of the sale was HK$19m achieved for a large huanghuali yoke-back armchair.
Starting at HK900,000, the lot drew more than 40 bids in small increments mostly less than half a million dollar between two telephone and two floor bidders. In the end, a floor bidder clad in black secured the lot for HK$16m hammer price, eight times its high estimate of HK$2m. The buyer paid for HK$19m after premium.
This yoke-back armchair, dating back to the late Ming Dynasty, is marked by its generous size and slender silhouette. It is believed that the design is originated as early as the Tang dynasty, evolving from chairs used by Buddhist monks for mediations.
Top five lots:
Lot 111 | A RARE HUANGHUALI RECESSED-LEG LONG TABLE, QIAOTOUAN
MING DYNASTY, 17TH CENTURY
88 by 289.3 by 58.5 cm
Estimate: HK$4,000,000 – 6,000,000
Sold for: HK$60,155,000
Lot 115 | A RARE HUANGHUALI 'KUI DRAGON' COUCH-BED, LUOHANCHUANG
MING DYNASTY, 17TH CENTURY
71.9 by 201.2 by 122.7 cm
- Sotheby's New York, 23rd September 1997, lot 399.
Estimate: HK3,000,000 – 5,000,000
Sold for: HK$48,765,000
Lot 115 | AN EXTREMELY RARE AND LARGE HUANGHUALI YOKE-BACK ARMCHAIR, CHANYI
LATE MING DYNASTY
123 by 84 by 76 cm
Estimate: HK$1,000,000 – 2,000,000
Sold for: HK$19,375,000
Lot 110 | A SUPERBLY CARVED CINNABAR LACQUER 'POMEGRANATE' BOX AND COVER
MARK AND PERIOD OF YONGLE
- A European private collection.
- Christie’s London, 5th June 1995, lot 16, illustrated on the catalogue cover.
- Littleton & Hennessy Asian Art, New York, 2008
Etimate: HK$16,000,000 — 18,000,000
Sold for: HK$15,055,000
Lot 124 | AN IMPORTANT AND EXQUISITE WHITE JADE 'CHICKEN CUP'
QING DYNASTY, QIANLONG PERIOD
- Collection of Edward T. Chow (1910-1980)
- Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 4th May 1994, lot 473
Estimate: HK$10,000,000 – 15,000,000
Sold for: HK$12,175,000
Auction house: Sotheby's Hong Kong
Sale date: 11 July, 2020
Lots offered: 39
Sold by lots: 85%
Sale total: HK$257,725,000