Foreword by our Asian art expert

Pair of Huanghuali Armchairs with Shou Characters, 17th C.

Dr. Arne Sildatke: “Treasures of Chinese carpentry"

“As the supervisory curator of the auction cycle for December 2014, which saw Auctionata dedicate three whole auction to Asian art, I was delighted to be able to present Chinese furniture of finest quality. The core of the auction was composed of exclusive Ming dynasty furniture (Lot 5-17) from a carefully maintained collection belonging to a German diplomat.

This outspoken expert and aficionado of valuable furniture shipped these treasures home upon his return to Germany at the turn of the 20th century. Since then, these desirable masterpieces remained in family ownership, which makes their appearance at this auction the first on the art market. Precursory age dating of many of these items was scientifically verified by the previous owner. A collection that boasts such a marvelously high density of top quality items is incredibly rare and is certainly not to be missed!”

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Testaments to Chinese carpentry craft

Gu Hongzhong (910-980 A.D.): 'Night Revels'

Much more than simply furniture

Chinese furniture carpentry, which remains highly admired to this day, achieved its unparalleled apex during the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644). The items of furniture from this period had attained an irrevocable status as stand-alone artworks in a spatial context. As a result, extra special care was taken in every aspect of their design, construction and the selection of raw materials.

Imperial Chinese furniture became a distinguishing luxury of the nobility, upper class and wealthy merchants of that time. It served to highlight the owner’s social status and personal fortune to the outside world. The unique social framework of historical China and the enormous societal and technical developments of that time led to a cultural bloom to which we owe these outstanding specimens of fine Chinese carpentry craft.

Highlights of the auction collection

Very rare Huanghuali Daybed

Huanghuali ‘Giant’s Arm Braces’ Table,
17th C.

A set of 4 Huanghuali Armrest Chairs,
17th/18th C.

Huanghuali Table with Ruyi Ornaments,
15th/16th C.

Huanghuali Altar Table with Floral
Carving, 16th C.

Chinese furniture carpentry

Zitan “Mother-of-Pearl” Furniture Set, 19th Century

Collector’s items of the highest aesthetic quality

While the unbowed tradition of fine carpentry craft was always held in the highest regard in China, the turn of the 20th century witnessed an enormous increase in demand for Chinese Ming dynasty furniture by European and American art connoisseurs, who recognized its value as a highly desirable collector’s item. Scientific essays, including the publication entitled ‘Chinese Domestic Furniture‘ by German art historian Gustav Ecke (1896-1971), brought Chinese furniture to the attention of a wide range of collectors and connoisseurs.

The many-facetted stylistic characteristics of early Chinese furniture remain as fascinating now as the day they first emerged. Its commonly reduced, almost sculpturally stylistic form and focus on the highest possible level of technical and aesthetic accomplishment provides numerous parallels with contemporary interiors. Today as well, Chinese furniture remains timeless, elegant and desirable.

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Masterpieces of the collection

Impressive Zitan Altar Table QIAOTOUAN, 16th/17th Century

Among the absolute highlights of the auction is the extraordinarily fine 16th /17th century Zitan Altar Table. It immediately impresses with its considerable length of over three meters. The table was crafted from precious Zitan wood, which is highly prized in China, thereby letting us conclude that this item of furniture once stood in a palace or an upperclass household.

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Rare Huanghuali Daybed LUOHANCHUANG, 17th Century

A further item of notable importance is the large Huanghuali Daybed from the late Ming dynasty. This unusual item is primarily characterized by its elegant proportions, which perfectly highlight the attractive grain of the Huanghuali wood. Daybeds of such quality and shape are amongst the most extravagant and highly desired items of late Ming dynasty furniture amongst collectors.

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Pair of Huanghuali ‘Yokeback’ Chairs, 16th/17th Century

These Huanghuali ‘Yokeback’ Chairs with carved aprons represent a classic furniture type with a characteristic appearance. These chairs were traditionally reserved for important guests and high-ranking family members. The curved and protruding edges of the backrest elongated the silhouette of the upper body of whomever sat on the chair, thereby bestowing a special dignity upon them.

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Huanghuali/Burl Wood “Giant’s Arm Braces” Table, 15th C.

An early example of Ming period furniture comes in the shape of the rectangular Huanghuali Table with Inlaid Burl Wood Plate. The elegant proportions and the burl wood tabletop let us conclude that this table was once used to present works of art. The four curved support bases, which served to connect the legs to the underside of the tabletop, give the table its characteristic appearance. These are known as ‘giant's arm braces‘ amongst experts of fine Chinese furniture.

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