Pair of Antique Yoke-Back Armchairs
Shanxi, circa 1860
This distinctive pair of chairs are in the classic 'Official's Hat' or 'Yoke-Back' style, named after the shape of the toprails. The style is one of the earliest that developed in China, with examples seen in drawings from as early as the 6th century, and which continued to be made with very little change for centuries. These particular chairs are fairly austere, without any carved decoration other than the shaped aprons below each seat and the small spandrels under the curved armrests. The lovely , flowing curves that are such an important part of Chinese chair design are seen here not only in the toprails, but also in the rear sloping side posts, arms and backrests.
The footrests and supporting braces step up from front to back - a feature incorporated intentionally and referred to as 'bubugao' in Chinese (meaning 'step higher'). This was supposed to denote the high status of the sitter as the term was associated with promotion through Chinese officialdom. The dark lacquer finish over the elm wood is largely still in place, though worn around the seat, arms and backrest to give an interesting patina. Tall and elegant and in a classic Chinese design, the chairs would make a real feature in a bedroom or reception room.
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