Mathilde HK at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum – “The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Chairs for Viewing the World through Time”

You like design?

You like Decorative Arts?

You are found of connections between Western Art and Chinese Art?

The Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department launched an exhibition entitled “The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Chairs for Viewing the World through Time”, organized by the Heritage Museum. That very detailed exhibition displays more than 100 seating furniture dating from antiquity to the end of the post second world war period. The thematic layout allows the visitor to draw comparison between Western and Asian models. The pieces have high provenance, being selected among 9 major Museums worldwide. However, one can stress the numerous loans from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and The Metropolitan Museum, New York.


Chinese sedan chair, used by the bride on the wedding ceremony, Qing Dynasty, picture@visualartscalendarhongkong

The overall display follows a thematic order and is divided into different sections: Chairs representing power and symbols of authority, religious furniture in churches and temples, chairs for everyday life such as children chairs, medical chairs, or chairs as means of locomotion. Then, the visitor can look at thrones, funeral or ritual stools, rocking chairs,day chairs or sofas, gouty chairs or sedan chairs, that traveled throughout the age. In the same space, everyday life pieces are facing royal or imperial commissions. According to me, the real asset of such showcase is the iconography linked to each piece. Indeed, the exhibition provides pictures, engravings or paintings, displaying the chairs at stake. That documentation is precious to stimulate the understanding of both cultural and historical background of each seat.


My favorite Piece among the Chinese chairs:


Chinese Antler Armchair, Qing Dynasty, Kangxi Period (1661-1722), Overall height: 131cm, Width: 92cm, Depth: 76.5cm, China, The palace Museum, picture@the palace Museum

Among the Chinese pieces on display, the Antler Armchair coming from the Palace Museum and dated from the Qing Dynasty, XVIII th century, is the most unusual chair. This beautiful piece was inherited from Manchu taste and I found a very good description of it in an online dictionary for Chinese art: “The armchair has two antlers holding a wooden splat as its back. Two larger antlers, the base of which are connected by a fragment of the skull, form curved arm rests. The solid board seat of the chair is made of Huanghuali rosewood, while its front and side edges are slightly concave. The four edges are covered with ox horn and inlaid with an ivory bowstring. On the chair seat, bones in design of interlocking clouds support the antlers. Four antlers comprise the legs. The wooden footstool is supported by horns of baby deer…On the splat is the Qianlong Emperor”s (r. 1736-1795) poetic inscription in official script (li shu), which was composed in the thirty-seventh year of the Qianlong era (1772). The poem tells that the antlers are from deer hunted by his grandfather the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1622-1722)


The most unexpected chair I selected:

images Main-engraving-of-chair

The Bidford Chair, An oak and walnut panel-back armchair, Elizabethan Period, England,

“One of the first chair you encounter while coming in the exhibition hall is the Bidford Chair, usually on display in the Shakespeare center of Bidford-on-Avon, next to Shakespeare birthplace. The story associated with this chair is that it is reputed to be the chair Shakespeare sat in whilst competing in a drinking competition at the old Falcon Inn, Bidford-on-Avon, during the XVII th century. Carved onto the panel are Shakespeare’s Coat of Arms and the initials ‘W A S’ for ‘William and Anne Shakespeare’.  The initials were carved at a later date than the Coat of Arms. Although the authenticity of the piece is not proved, I fond it rather amusing to see it at the Heritage Museum.

As the Shakespeare Trust mentions: “It was purchased by Samuel Ireland in 1792.  According to Ireland, he bought the chair from Anne Hathaway’s cottage.  He spoke to a member of the Hathaway family still living in the cottage who said that it had been given to them by Lady Elizabeth Barnard, Shakespeare granddaughter.  In his book Confessions, Ireland’s son William Henry, recalled his visit with his father to Shottery.  He remembered the ‘old oak chair, wherein it was stated our bard was used to sit, during his courtship, with his Anne upon his knee’.  Henry himself was doubtful about the authenticity of the chair.  The carved initials may have been his handiwork.”


Topics and Keywords:

Solo: topics to focus on

Decorative Arts, Design, Furniture, Craftsmanship, Antiquities, thrones, barber and medical chairs, Chinese ornaments, wood-carving, upholstery.

Combo: on the same topic

Liang Yi Museum
146, Hollywood road, Hong Kong
Ticket: 200 HKD per pax

The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Chairs for Viewing the World through Time
Hong Kong Heritage Museum
Thematic Galleries 1 & 2
7 June 2014 – 15 September 2014

2 thoughts on “Mathilde HK at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum – “The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Chairs for Viewing the World through Time””

    1. Very Interesting exhibit Mathilde:) I look forward to coming to view myself sometime soon.
      Best Regards,

      Keith Archer

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