In his introduction to Tian Jiaqing’s Destiny with Zitan: Yue Hua Xuan’s Collection of Fine Qing Furniture and Items, Lee Chiu Wah states “zitan is one of the most valuable types of timber in the world. I like zitan, but not only for this reason. Zitan has a slow growth cycle. It takes over 800 years before it can be harvested. It is said that zitan can only survive with the help of heaven and earth. Perhaps because it absorbs so much spiritual essence of heaven and earth, zitan is heavy in specific weight, dark in colour, dense in grain, smooth and subtle as jade, and is elegant and sophisticated.”
This form of armchair, with “four exposed ends” to the yoke and arms cut-off square rather than round, is well known in huanghuali but virtually unknown in zitan. A huanghuali example from the collection of 'Take One Step Back' Studio is illustrated in Splendour of Style: Classical Furniture from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, National Museum of History, Taipei, 1999, p. 82. Two published zitan examples in this distinctly late Ming style are found in the collection of the Guanfu Museum, illustrated by Ma Weidu (ed.), The Culture of the Chinese Seat, China, 2011, p. 45 and another illustrated in Romantic Charm of Ancient Woodwork, the Tianjin City, Gumuxiang Furniture Company Ltd. Collection, 2005, pp. 74-75. However, neither example has the same grace as the present pair, which are distinguished by their elegant profile and almost perfect proportions.
Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.
Please kindly note that the first line of the provenance should read: Chan Shing Kee, Hong Kong.
Tsai C.Y., Zitan: The Most Noble Hardwood, My Humble House Publications, Taipei, 1996, p. 34.
Chinese Furniture: Selected Articles from Orientations 1984-1999, Magnum (Offset) Printing Co. Ltd, Hong Kong, 1999, back of catalogue advertisement.
Chan Shing Kee, Hong Kong.
My Humble House, Taipei.
Ever Arts Gallery, Hong Kong.
The Marie Theresa L. Virata (1923-2015) Collection.