The Geldart Collection of Chinese Furniture Scholar’s Objects and Carpets for Bonhams New York Sale

The serious collection of classical Chinese furniture dating from the late Ming to the middle Qing periods (circa 1550 to 1750) began in the 1930’s when foreign residents, living in Beijing before WWII, began collecting antique furniture from local residents. Collecting resumed at the end of the War and the first scholarly studies by Ecke and Kates helped to spread knowledge of Chinese furniture to a wider audience in Europe and the United States. The Chinese Civil War and the establishment of the Peoples Republic in 1949 effectively put an end to collecting until the early 1980’s when economic reforms once again opened the country’s borders, causing Chinese art, including large amounts of classical furniture, to flow into Hong Kong and then onwards to the rest of the collecting world.

altar cofferFed and Peter Geldart are amongst a small group of enthusiastic Hong Kong collectors who, in the 80’s, were inspired by the renewed availability of fine classical Chinese furniture and scholar’s objects that were leaving China after the economic liberalization policies of Deng Xiaoping began to take effect. Most collectors followed the lead of Western scholars and pioneering collectors in favoring the simple but elegant types of wood we generally identify with classical Chinese furniture, such as huanghuali, zitan and jichimu. However, the Geldarts took a broader and more thorough approach by extending their interests to also include pieces created by master craftsmen in alternative woods such as jumu (elm), namu (cedar), and tielimu (iron wood).

The Geldart Collection ranges from classical furniture to scholars objects and antique carpets- many of which were woven for use in Tibetan Lamaistic temples.

Sure to draw bidders are a pair of massive, 18th-Century, huanghuali cupboards (Sijiangui). Each is composed of two framed doors separated by a removable stile opening to reveal a lower cabinet set with large floating panel framed doors which enclose recessed hidden storage. Accented by baitong hardware and aprons elaborately carved with classic foliate tendrils, the impressive work is estimated at $70,000 – 100,000.

Undoubtedly, one of the most sought after pieces will be an intricately detailed altar coffer; Lianerchu. Coffers can be controversial pieces in Chinese furniture as so many are not of the classic period, but were actually produced in the 20th century and very often of re-used wood. However, this coffer (pictured , above) – conservatively dated to the 18th-19th Century and made of huanghuali- is in fact one of the rarest and finest pieces in the collection. Accented with ‘sword-ridge’ molding and small upturned scrolled ends on its paneled top, the splayed, beaded legs support a top row of two drawers over a single plain panel and a shaped apron carved with foliate tendrils set off by spandrels elaborately decorated with carved chilong dragons. The split tails are enclosed by a beaded shaped edge and the side panels are framed by a ‘u-shaped’ apron. Opulently designed, the lot is expected to fetch $40,000 – 60,000.

Also of great interest to collectors will be a 17th-18th Century, huanghuali and cedar panel, two-door cabinet (Yuanjiaogui). The slightly tapered cabinet with beaded frame encloses well-figured, cedar-burl panels opening to reveal two inner shelves with the lower shelves suspending a pair of drawers and the front fitted with a removable stile. With side panels composed ensuite over ‘u-shaped’ aprons and the brown lacquer top finished with a fine craquelure, the cabinet carries an estimate of $20,000 – 30,000.

Notable amongst the scholar’s objects is a fine and rare 18th-Century zitan and burlwood chest (Guanpixiang) used to store seals and other small objects. Of rectangular form with white metal fittings, the chest boasts finely figured burlwood panels and a domed lid opening to reveal short drawers fronted with burl panels and framed zitan members providing an elegant contrast to the well-figured panels. Expected to fetch $10,000 – 15,000, the work will be an excellent addition to any collection.

Other intriguing scholars objects include a fine huamu brush pot (Est. $2,000 – 3,000); a zitan two-tiered food box (Est. $6,000 – 9,000); and a pair of huanghuali storage chests (Est. $4,000 – 6,000).

From the selection of carpets to be presented, one of the most desirable lots is a pair of 19th-Century Ningxia carpets. Each is enclosed in a narrow border of bats and flaming jewels and decorated with alternating panels of fu-lions and chrysanthemums in the central or side medallions. Carrying an estimate of $3,000 – 5,000 the rugs should attract competitive bidding.

The sale will take place at 580 Madison Avenue on September 18th at 1PM EST. Previews will begin on September 13th and continue until the day of the sale. The illustrated auction catalogue, can be viewed or purchased online at www.bonhams.com/us.

www.bonhams.com/usasian

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