Provenance: Ariston Bautista y Lin, Manuel Bautista y Lin and Maxima Javier, Mrs. Bautista–Fuente, Mrs. Angelita Bautista Fuente–Muralla, Acquired from the above by a distinguished collector


This rare and beautiful suite of seat furniture from the 1890s features caned seats and individually sectioned, vase-shaped caned backs that are flanked by small foliar carvings supported by a sequence of small balusters. The sectioned caned backs are individually surmounted by extravagant, almost kinetic crests of emerging and unfurling foliar carvings and C-scrolls, which hint of the British Prince of Wales’ feathers crest. The crests are flanked by flame-shaped finials. Descending from the sides of the backrests, the armrests terminate in foliate C-scrolls supported by acanthus leaves. The seats are supported by undulating aprons with C-scrolls decorated with floral and foliate carvings centered by medallions with lion heads. The splendid ensembles are supported entirely by four turned, beaded, and fluted legs descending from plinths with a cross-section design. This spectacular suite of seat furniture, from the historical Bautista y Lin estate, bears all four trademarks of genuine Ah Tay furniture: the discriminating selection of mature golden narra wood (stained dark); the seamless Chinese-style joinery; the definite, bold yet faultless proportions; and the extremely fine, intricate, and almost kinetic carving. The combined reigns of Isabella II (1833–68), Amadeo I (1870–73), and Alfonso XII (1874–1885) in Spain corresponded to that of Queen Victoria (1837–1901) in England. Isabella II (1833–68) and Amadeo I (1870–73) also corresponded to that of Emperor Napoleon III and his Second Empire (1852–70) in France. During those decades, the Renaissance Revival style was favored in architecture, furniture, and decoration (along with the Rococo and Gothic Revival styles). Furniture in the continent was made large and commodious, with big carved crests and finials, decorated with marquetry and other inlays, marble tops, rounded and fancy corners, turned and fluted legs, with or without bronze and brass mounts. Manila in Las Islas Filipinas followed suit with lighter, airier versions of the European Renaissance Revival style. The late great “Manila’s romancer of wood” Osmundo “Omeng” Esguerra liked to casually describe this kind of furniture as “Malacañang furniture,” not because they came directly from the Malacañang Palace but because they were the distinct type of Victorian–style furniture one saw inside the palatial and elegant houses in the area along the streets of General Solano Street, J. P. Laurel (formerly Aviles), San Rafael, Arlegui , R. Hidalgo, and even those perpendicular to R. Hidalgo. The Santa Cruz, Manila residence of the family of affluent Chinese mestizo Bautista y Lin (shortened from Lintingco) was a social landmark from the 1870s to the 1900s. In its opulent, European-style reception rooms congregated the best and the brightest men and women of Ariston Bautistas’ generation who would play prominent parts in the 1896 Philippine Revolution—Jose Rizal, Juan Luna, Antonio Luna, Pedro Paterno, Agueda Paterno, Jacoba Paterno, and more. In the fashion of the fin de siècle, the house was furnished luxuriously in an eclectic manner with most of the furniture by the expert cabinetmaker Ah Tay, a favorite of affluent Manila be they Spanish peninsulares, insulares, Spanish mestizos, Chinese mestizos, or Filipinos. It is known among the tight circle of serious Manila antique collectors that this particular suite of Renaissance Revival chairs have all survived from the Bautista y Lin estate, which also include the following: a grooved marble-top table; a molded marble-top table; a pair of marble-top console tables; a pair of mariposa-shaped lounging chairs; a very tall tambol aparador; an exquisite tabletop La Inmaculada Concepcionin a virina with ivory head and hands, a solid gold crown and aureole, diamond earrings and ring, spectacularly dressed with solid gold appliquées; and a beautiful tabletop San Antonio de Padua in a virina dressed in gold embroidery. These treasured pieces are now in the possession of the same tight circle of serious collectors. Ariston Bautista y Lin married Petrona Nakpil y Luna and they had no issue. Petrona aka “Mangoy” became Ariston’s sole heiress and her Nakpil siblings eventually inherited Ariston Bautista’s fortune. Ariston Bautista had a brother, Manuel. Manuel Bautista y Lin married Maxima Javier and they had a son, Enrique, and a daughter. Enrique Javier Bautista married Paz Legazpi (Paz Legazpi-Bautista, a famous Filipina intellectual in the mold of Rosa Sevilla-Alvero, Atty. Paz Ongsiako de los Reyes-Phillips, Helena Tirona Benitez, Flora Palomar, and Minerva Laudico). The sister married and became Mrs. Bautista-Fuente. Enrique Javier Bautista and Paz Legazpi had a daughter, Consuelo Legazpi Bautista, who died young. Mrs. Bautista-Fuente became the mother of Angelita Bautista Fuente-Muralla, the last recorded owner of this splendid furniture suite. (Acknowledgments: Marco Cabreza, Lisa Guerrero Nakpil, Ramon N. Villegas, Martin I. Tinio , Jr.)