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A LATE MING OR EARLY QING DYNASTY PAIR OF HUANGHUALI WOOD ROSE CHAIRS WITH OPENBACK DESIGN

Overall Height 39 in. (99 cm.) – Height of Seat 20.5 in. (52 cm.), Width of Seat 24.25 in. (61.5 cm.), Circa 1620-1735

These blonde colored rose armchairs are distinguishable from other Ming period chairs in that the low back and armrests are at right angles to the seat. The struts on the back railing or stretcher which support the arch-shaped apron are bamboo shaped, with beaded carving in a scrolled decorative motif on the upper and lower aprons and spandrels. Arched aprons are also found under the armrests. The fine design and workmanship of these chairs are demonstrated in the size of the beading, the thickness of the wood used, the well fitted joinery, and the attractive color and wood grain pattern.

Similar chairs with different decorative elements and side railings are illustrated by Wang Shixiang, Classic Chinese Furniture, Plates 41 and 42.

Dr. Sarah Handler writes in Ming Furniture In The Light of Chinese Architecture, pages 122 to 125: “The smallest Chinese armchairs with angular low backs, sometimes only slightly higher than the arms, are informal seats for both men and women. The top rail and arms are always straight and, as in the continuous yokeback armchair, do not protrude beyond the posts. These are known as ‘rose chairs’ or meiguiyi in Beijing and, according to Wang Shixiang, they are ‘writing chairs’, or wenyi in Jiangsu and Zhejiang. This appellation is puzzling since the form and decoration of the chair bears no resemblance to a flower and the rose has no particular prestige or symbolic importance in China. Lowback armchairs are thought to have developed from a popular Song dynasty chair in which the back and arms are of the same height. This may be true; however, the paintings used to support this argument, despite their Song attributions, are generally considered by modern Western scholars to be Ming copies. A larger version of this lowback armchair with a separate mat backrest is shown in a thirteenth-century woodblock illustration to Tianzhu lingqian (Efficacious Charms from the Tianzhu).

This lowback armchair is made from substantial pieces of light-toned wood and has open panels with inner frames beneath the top rail and arms, as well as on all four sides of the base. Each frame has a wide beaded edge, which on the main panel is cusped and extends into boldly carved curls. The downward taper of the sides of the frames emphasizes the outward splay of the legs towards the floor and enlivens the angular rigidity of the structure. On the back, the frame rises from a low stretcher supported by struts carved to resemble small pieces of bamboo. Other examples of this type of chair also have low stretchers and struts in the side openings and some have inner frames above the stretchers. Time and hard use often weaken furniture joints to the point that they need repair and strengthening. One method employs metal strips, as on this chair at the back corners of the seat frame and where the arms join the back stiles.”

 

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