A pair of chinese armchairs
A pair of chinese armchairs
An Important Pair of Huanghuali Horseshoe Armchairs / Quanshiyi QING DYNASTY, LATE 18TH CENTURY.
Each with wide and sloped horseshoe top-rail with central motif and terminating in scrolled ends and supported on carved splats and circular section columns, above a cleated panel seat with ice plate edges above carved and recessed skirt, all supported on cabriole legs with Imperial guardian carved knee and terminating in ball and claw feet.
China circa 1780
Back Height 36 inches Seat Height 18 inches Width 31 inches
Most likely produced at Chi Sung Kung for Xiyang Lou Provenance: an Irish private collection, by repute removed from Yuanmingyuan in 1860; thence by descent. The construction of the present work is rare, but it is not unknown for a chair to have a sloped horseshoe arm with recessed skirt above wider knee. Compare with an earlier pair of huanghuali horseshoe armchairs with similarly sloped horseshoe arms and waisted skirts on hoof feet, that sold at Bonhams on 16 May 2019, lot 81; These in turn compare with a related rare huanghuali and jichimu yokeback armchair, 17th century, formerly in the collection of Dr Isaac Newton of Edinburgh, which was sold at Sotheby's New York, 23 April 1987, lot 590. Wang Shixiang illustrates a chair possibly composed of a stool and associated back in Classic Chinese Furniture, Hong Kong, 1986, pl.40. See also a related horseshoe-back armchair, Ming dynasty, illustrated in Ming Qing gongting jiaju daguan, vol.1, Beijing, 2006, p.94, pl.67. Also compare acanthus scroll used in combination with orthidox Tao/Confucian symbolism (and most likely also produced at Chi Sung Kung for Xiyang Lou) in a pair of 18thC huanghuali demilune tables of European design, that sold at Bonhams Bond Street, on 9 November 2017, lot 120.Notes: The present huanghuali armchairs, incorporate a fusion of both European design motifs and orthidox Tao/Confucian imperial symbolism. Constructed throughout 18th and 19th century China, Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace), was the main imperial residence of Emperor Qianlong and his successors preceding the conclusion of the second Opium War in 1860, from where the present rare and important huanghuali armchairs, by repute; were removed. Qianlong was an outward looking Emperor, who in celebration of the diversity of the Empire and his love for art; wanted to create a reflection on Earth in which Heaven was expressed. To this end, the extensive construction projects of Yuanmingyuan were commenced, and although over 95% of the project was made up of Chinese style buildings, there were also buildings in the Tibetan, Mongol, and Persian styles. The most visible architectural remains of the Old Summer Palace can be found in the Western Mansions (Xiyang Lou) the section of 18th century European-style palaces, fountains and formal gardens. These structures, built partly of stone, were planned and designed by the Jesuit Guiseppe Castiglione, with Micheal Benoist responsible for the fountains, waterwork, and project management of the furnishings. For the purposes of furnishings of the Western Mansions, Emperor Qianlong employed a group of Jesuit artists and engineers (trained primarily at St Suplice in Paris) who had taken up residence in a corner of Zijin Cheng (The Forbidden City) known as Chi Sung Kung, as part of an ongoing diplomatic effort on the part of European parliamentary representatives and the Catholic Church from the reign of the Emperor Kangxi. Since this time Chi Sung Kung had been a studio and workshop where artists, clockmakers, sculptors and cabinetmakers, of both Chinese and European origin worked together on various projects and shared ideas. It was a cosmopolitan artisan hub, situated in late 17th and 18th century Beijing, and had among the largest collections of precious raw materials (likely on Earth at that time) for use by the most talented artists and artisans of the land; and all managed with Confucian due diligence for the production of furnishings and objet d'art for the Emperor and his immediate family. Qianlong, after seeing an engraving of a European fountain, employed Castiglione and Benoist to carry out the work to satisfy his taste for exotic buildings and objects to adorn his "Garden of Gardens" (万园之园; 萬園之園; wàn yuán zhī yuán) These armchairs will have presented themselves well in keeping with the amalgamation of Continental and Tao/Confucian design components remnant in the Western Palaces we find in ruin there today. The splats with Parisian acanthus scrolls situated in an overall design remnant of an 18thC Dutch Burgermaster chair, but with Chinese waisted and stepped skirt, and imperial guardians keeping the Taoist spirits at bay above Chinese form clawed foot. It is highly likely that the present pair of huanghuali armchairs were made, specifically, to satisfy these ends.