A George II Anglo-Chinese Huang Huali armchair
Lot 47
A George II Anglo-Chinese Huang Huali armchair
Sold for £43,750 (US$ 68,552) inc. premium

Lot Details
A George II Anglo-Chinese Huang Huali armchair A George II Anglo-Chinese Huang Huali armchair A George II Anglo-Chinese Huang Huali armchair A George II Anglo-Chinese Huang Huali armchair
A George II Anglo-Chinese Huang Huali armchair
Of broad proportions, the moulded shaped back with an acanthus carved toprail above a vase-shaped splat with conforming carved decoration, the drop-in saddle-shaped seat flanked by open arms above cabriole legs with profiled supports, on cabriole legs with lion-mask carving to the knees and claw and ball feet.

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Possibly supplied to Sir Henry Gough Bt (1708-1774) Circa 1740. A very similar set of chairs feature in a painting of the Gough family by William Verelst, dated 1741: private collection, exhibited Manners and Morals The Tate Gallery, London, 1987 exh. cat., pp.124-5, No. 107 and subsequently on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

    Purchased privately by the present owner.

    Comparative Literature:
    A pair chairs exhibited: David S. Howard, A Tale of Three Cities, Canton, Shanghai and Hong Kong, Sotheby's London, 1997, cat. No. 217, illustrated p. 168, fig.217 and sold Sotheby's London Important English Furniture, 10 July 1998 £60,900.

    Carl L. Crossman, The Decorative Arts of the China Trade, 1991, p. 233, pl. 85 (a pair of chairs from the Richard Milhender Collection).

    Lucy Wood, The Upholstered Furniture in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, 2008, vol. I, pp. 429-440 (A set of six chairs including a pair of armchairs) also illustrated in Percy Macquoid, English Furniture, Tapestry and Needlework, 1929, pl. 39, fig. 138.

    Edward Lennox-Boyd ed., Masterpieces of English Furniture: The Gerstenfeld Collection, 1998, p. 80, pls. 58-59 (side chairs including one of a pair of walnut chairs upon which the present examples may be based).

    Country Life, 2013, 'The Art Market Review', 31 July 2013, p. 77., fig. 4 (a set of twelve chairs exhibited at Masterpiece 2013 by Mallett of Dover Street).

    The present and following lots belong to an important group of 18th century Huang Huali chairs made in China for export to England. Furthermore they are among exceptionally rare examples which are based on known walnut prototypes produced in England during the late 1730s. Another comparable instance is provided by a pair Chinese export Huang Huali chairs of a similar period based on examples associated with Giles Grendey (see Lucy Wood op. cit., p. 263, figs. 169 and 173). Chairs of this kind represent a rare hybrid combining English design with Chinese construction methods executed in locally sourced timber. The present armchair in particular illustrates this with its use of 'strut' supports to the arms, a feature commonly manifesting itself on Ming and Qing dynasty seat furniture. English chairs of the period are typically constructed from mahogany or walnut as opposed to Huang Huali which is considerably denser and therefore heavier. Whilst numerous side chairs of this design have been recorded on the art market, the armchair here is possibly the only example of its kind to be offered for sale at auction.

    It remains a matter of conjecture whether the very similar chairs featured in a portrait of Sir Henry Gough 1st Bt (1708-1774) and his family, by William Verelst dated 1741, are of Anglo-Chinese or English origin. However it is significant that Gough family were merchants who amassed a fortune from trading with India and China. It is therefore tempting to speculate whether Gough ordered copies based on his English originals during one of his visits to the far east. Beyond lots 47 and 48, a total of at least thirteen side chairs and a further armchair of the same model have been identified. The numbering on these suggests that these may have been supplied as more than one set. Other related chairs with caned seats are known indicating the existence of yet another set (see Lucy Wood op. cit., p. 436). Nonetheless, these chairs provide an important insight into the furniture trade between China and England during the first half of the 18th century.

    The Construction and Design

    Whilst the backs follow typical English construction techniques of the period, the seat frames demonstrate more of an amalgamation of English and Chinese techniques. The through tenons joining the arms-rests to the back stiles is also a characteristic of Chinese chair construction. Besides the previously mentioned s-bend struts supporting the arms on the offered lot, the exaggerated broad proportions are also suggestive of Chinese influence. This may indicate that in the absence of an English prototype armchair to copy, stylistic cues were taken from Chinese examples. The presence of painted or incised Chinese characters to the inside of the seat rails and leg stiles denote assembly marks (see Lucy Wood op. cit., pp. 429 and 436).
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