Horseshoe Armchair with Bat Carving
Shanxi, circa 1880
This is one of the most beautiful horseshoe armchairs we have come across, with a gorgeous patina resulting from its years of use and wear. Originally finished in the black lacquer that is still intact on most of the distinctive curved headrail and arms, but has mostly worn on the seat and front footrest to show the lovely, natural elm wood. The rear posts are set within carved spandrels and the curved backrest is decorated in carved relief in a design showing a bat - a visual pun as the character for bat in Chinese (pronounced 'fu') sounds the same as the character for good fortune or happiness. Similarly, bats are often shown upside down as the character for this (pronounced 'dao') is a synonym for the character meaning to have arrived. Saying 'the bat flies upside down' therefore sounds the same as 'good fortune is coming'! This type of chair, named for its grand looking curved rail in a horseshoe shape, were reserved for important house guests. Usually in pairs, this one has been split from its twin over the years.
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