Weeks after a Chinese vase sold for $8.8 million at auction, a centuries-old folding chair from China sold for a staggering $15.9 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in October. The price is not only a record for a Chinese chair but is also the third highest amount paid for any chair at auction.
The piece, a huanghuali folding horseshoe-back armchair from the late Ming dynasty (1368-1644), drew more than 60 bids in 15 minutes during part one of the auction house’s sale of objects from the collection of the late Hong Kong businessman Joseph Hotung, October 7-8. Ultimately, the chair ended up in the hands of an unidentified private collector from Asia.
Exceedingly rare due to their fragility, folding horse-back armchairs – or jiaoyi – are among the most prized pieces of furniture from the Ming era. They were developed by Chinese carpenters in the 12th century and often reserved for visiting dignitaries and other VIPs. The example that hit the block in Hong Kong features a pivoting footrest, S-curved arm posts, “bamboo-and-vase” braces, and numerous iron embellishments.
For nearly three decades the chair was owned by Arthur M. Sackler, a Purdue Pharma co-owner who amassed one of the world’s largest personal collections of Chinese art. After his death, in 1987, the chair was passed on to his ex-wife, Else Sackler, and then their daughter, Elizabeth A. Sackler, who sold it at Christie’s in 2001. Hotung ultimately added the chair to his own prominent collection of Chinese art before his death in 2021.
In early October, a blue-and-white Chinese vase with an estimated value of less than $2,000 rocked the antiques landscape when it sold for $8.8 million.