A magnificent and exceptionally rare huanghuali three-drawer coffer, liansanchu Late Ming Dynasty, 16th/17th century

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Lot 90TP Y
A magnificent and exceptionally rare huanghuali three-drawer coffer, liansanchu
Late Ming Dynasty, 16th/17th century
Sold for £ 125,000 (US$ 163,062) inc. premium

Lot Details
The Property of a Lady of Title 女爵藏品
A magnificent and exceptionally rare huanghuali three-drawer coffer, liansanchu
Late Ming Dynasty, 16th/17th century
The rectangular two-board top set into a mitre, mortise-and-tenon frame over an 'ice-plate' edge tenoned to the legs and housing a horizontal row of three drawers set with metal mounts above two plain rectangular friezes and scallop-shaped apron, the top set off by beaded scallop-edged spandrels, the well-figured wood of rich caramel tone.
189.2cm (74 1/2in) wide x 83.3cm (32 3/4in) high x 43cm (16 7/8in) deep.


  • 明末十六/十七世紀 黃花梨三聯櫥

    Provenance: Francesco Maria, Marchese Taliani de Marchio (1887 - 1968), Grand Officer of the Italian Crown, Commander of the Order of St Maurice and Lazarus, and Commander of the Order of Pius IX (Ordine Piano), and his wife Archduchess Maragaretha d'Austria Toscana, Marchesa Taliani de Marchio (1894 – 1986).
    Acquired from Hoggard-Sigler, Shanghai, 24 December 1940.

    來源: 佛朗西斯高•瑪利亞,塔里安利•得•馬基奧侯爵(1887-1968)及馬加烈特•奧地利-托斯卡納女大公,塔里安利•得•馬基奧女侯爵(1894-1986)伉儷收藏

    Marchese Taliani was a distinguished Italian diplomat who lived through major historical upheavals of the first half of the 20th century, events whose impact affect all to this day. His first diplomatic appointment was to Berlin in 1912; followed by Constantinople in 1913, where during the First World War he negotiated an agreement for the protection of Italian citizens and interests in the (soon to be partitioned) Ottoman Empire. From 1916 to 1919 he served in St Petersburg, and under the privilege of diplomatic immunity was in a unique position to observe and chronicle first-hand the October Revolution, its day by day development, the subsequent fall of Tsarist Russia and the establishment of the Soviet Republic; from 1919 he served in Rome as Secretary of State for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; with later assignments to London (1921 - 1923) and again to Constantinople (1924 – 1928), this time as the Republic of Turkey; from 1929 - 1930 he was in Rome as Head of Protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; in 1932 he was appointed Italian Ambassador to the Netherlands; in 1938 he was appointed Ambassador to China, where he remained until 1946; and his last diplomatic appointment was in 1951 as Ambassador to Spain until 1952.

    Sent to China in 1938 as Ambassador to the Nationalist Government of Chiang Kai-shek in Nanjing, he became an acute - and far from humourless, despite the hardships of everyday life - front line eye-witness of the Second Sino-Japanese War, during which the Japanese forces captured the capital and attacked Shanghai. When Mussolini recognised Wang Jingwei's Japanese puppet government, Taliani presented his credentials to him. On 8 September 1943, having refused to swear allegiance to the Italian Social Republic (Republic of Salò), he and his wife, the Archduchess Margaretha d'Austria Toscana (1894 - 1986), were arrested and interned by the Japanese in a concentration camp near Shanghai, where they remained for two years until the end of the war. After the end of hostilities, the new government of Alcide De Gasperi reconfirmed him as Ambassador to China until 1946.

    A number of masterpieces of classical Chinese furniture in the collection have been published by the eminent scholar Dr Gustav Ecke in his seminal book Chinese Domestic Furniture, Beijing, 1944, as well as Dr Ecke's article devoted to folding chairs, 'Wandlungen Des Faltstuhls: Bemerkungen zur Geschichte der Euraischen Stuhlform' ('Development of the Folding Chair: Observations on Euroasian Chair Forms'), which was published in Monumenta Serica, vol.9, 1944.

    Many of the purchase invoices survive, providing an important documentation of Chinese art dealers active in Shanghai and Beijing between 1938 and 1946. The majority of the invoices are dated to between December 1938 and July 1943, with a significant gap until April 1946, explained by Marchese and Marchesa Taliani's internment by the Japanese. The long list of dealers demonstrates the vibrant Chinese art market in Shanghai and Beijing in the late 1930s and early 1940s; this list includes the following:

    In Shanghai - K. D. Lu, Yee Chun Chang, C. K. Chou, Strehlneek's Gallery of Chinese Art, The Midoh Co., Tung Koo Tsar Chinese Curios & Arts Co., Philip Chu, Zui Wha Curios & Co., T. Y. King & Co., King Koo Chai, Tai Loong & Co., Tin Dao Shan Fang, Y. L. Hong, Chu Tsun Tsai, The China Curios Co., Hsueh Ken Chai, Zung Chang Ziang Co., The Little Pagoda, M. L. Kwauh, Hoggard – Sigler, and Foo Yuen Tsai.

    In Beijing - J. Plaut, Jung Hsing Chai, Mathias Komor, Tung Ku Chai Curio and Picture Store, Yi Pao Chai Jade Store, Jung Hsing Chai, Wan E. Cheng, Yung Pao Chia Jade Store, Mario Prodan, and Tung Yi & Co.

    Marchese Taliani published three books: Pietrogrado 1917, Milan, 1935; È Morto in Cina, Milan, 1949; and Dopoguerra a Shanghai, Milan, 1958.

    The three-drawer altar coffer is a masterpiece of late Ming dynasty furniture making, displaying an outstanding choice of huanghuali timber and exceptional craftsmanship. This is aptly demonstrated in the restrained balance allowing the superb timber the pride of place within the powerful geometric design formed by the delineation of the drawers and legs, the top and beading, flanked by the subtle naturalistic design.

    Three-drawer coffers would have played a prominent part in Ming and Qing dynasty interiors due to their impressive size and were used mostly for the storage of items such as bedding and clothes. Thanks to the text and woodblock illustrations in the Ming novel Jin ping mei (金瓶梅), we know that such coffers could form a part of a woman's dowry and as such were also known as 'dowry chests' (jiadi 嫁底).

    Compare a related huanghuali three-drawer coffer, circa 1550 – 1600, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, illustrated by C.Clunas, Chinese Furniture, London, 1997, p.84; a further example, but of simpler design, Ming dynasty, from the Tianjin Museum of History, is illustrated in Wang Shixiang, Classic Chinese Furniture - Ming and Early Qing Dynasties, Bangkok, 1986, pl.156; see also a related coffer, Ming dynasty, illustrated by Grace Wu Bruce, Two Decades of Ming Furniture, Beijing, 2011, p.190; two further related examples, 17th century, are illustrated by S.Handler, Ming Furniture in the Light of Chinese Architecture, Berkley, 2005, p.174; for a further discussion on coffers, see C.Everts, 'The Enigmatic Altar Coffer' in Journal of the Classical Chinese Furniture Society, Autumn 1994, pp.29-44.
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  1. Sophie Plender
    Auction administration - Chinese Works of Art
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