Grace Wu Bruce- Chinese Furniture & Works of Art


Pair of collectors cabinets

I 0333037
Huanghuali wood
Chinese, 17th century

Width 105 cm (41 5/16")    Depth 42.7 cm (16 13/16")    Height 154.7 cm (60 7/8")

Square corner cabinet is a classic type of cabinet from the late Ming to early Qing period and they were made in pairs. There are various single examples in published collections but pairs are very rare, presumably because they were dislocated due to the modern history of China.

Surviving examples of square corner cabinets are constructed either with recessed door and side panels and rectangular metal plates and hinges or four-sides flushed with round metalware like compound cabinets. Those that are not compound cabinets but are four-sides flushed with round plates or hinges like the present pair are rare examples.

Cabinets, whether they are wood-hinged cabinets or square corner cabinets, usually have an interior which comprises a central section with drawers and an additional shelf. These cabinets with many shelves are very unusual in surviving examples and were probably custom made for storage of special items like paintings scrolls.


Similar example
A cabinet of similar design and construction details is published in Wang Shixiang and Evarts, Curtis, Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, Chicago and San Francisco, 1995, p. 133

Construction report

The top of mitre, mortise and tenon frame construction with a tongue-and-grooved, single board floating panel supported by two dovetailed transverse stretchers underneath. There are exposed tenons on the short sides of the frame. The edge of the frame moulds downward and inward to end in a narrow flat band. The four square uprights, pyramid-joined to the top with one tenon exposed, have huanghuali floating panels tongue-and-grooved to them on the sides and the back. These floating panels are set flush to the uprights. The two doors of standard mitre, mortise and tenon frame construction with a two-board floating panel, has three dovetailed transverse stretchers tenoned into the door frame. Above the doors is a horizontal stretcher mitred to the uprights and set flush to the doors. The four round hinges and central plates with lock receptacles and shaped door pulls are all made of baitong. Inside the cabinet are four storage sections which comprise of three shelves and the cabinet bottom panel. The exterior exposed part of the cabinets, including the top and the back panels, are all made of huanghuali.