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A large and massive tielimu plank top recessed trestle leg altar table. China, Ming dynasty, 16th-17th century. Photo Florence Number Nine

This spectacular table is the result of the carving of a single log of ‘mesua ferrea’ (tielimu): the only tree whose size makes it possible to produce such big surfaces and legs. In addition to its remarkable size, it stands out for the sophisticated technique with which it was assembled, that is to say using very few pieces. 85,5 x 234 x 69,5 cm. Estimate: €6,000 - €8,000

Items of furniture such as this were used in religious contexts as altars (tianchanji). Tielimu tables were produced mainly during the Ming and the early Qing dynasties (1644-1911) (Wang Shixiang, “Classic Chinese furniture, Ming and Early Qing dynasties”, Hong Kong 1986, pp. 17-18). According to Wen Zhenheng (1585-1645), a famous painter and expert, author of the “Zhang wu zhi” (“Treaty on Superfluous Things”, 1620-1627), the best tables were those in tielimu because this kind of wood had a particularly beautiful and charming grain (Wang Shixiang, “Conoisseurship of Chinese Furniture, Ming and early Qing dynasties, 2 vols., Hong Kong 1990: I, p.69).

Florence Number Nine. Asian, Himalayan & Indian Works of Art. 18 May 2013 10:30am http://florencenumbernine.com/