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Lot 118, A huanghuali painting table, Late Ming dynasty;  78.3 by 155.8 by 71.5 cm, 30 3/4  by 61 1/4  by 28 1/8  inEstimate 2,800,000 — 4,000,000 HKD (329,544 - 470,778 EUR)Lot Sold 6,080,000 HKD (686,381 EUR). Photo Sotheby's.

the top of mitre, mortise and tenon frame construction with a tongue-and-groove, flush floating panel of two matched boards, supported by four dovetailed transverse stretchers underneath, the edge of the frame centred with a double beaded band, resting on four splayed legs with melon-ridge (gualeng) mouldings cut to house the spandrelled apron with a wide, flat moulded edge, the legs double tennoned to the underside of the top, each pair of legs joined on the shorter side with a hump-back shaped oval section stretcher decorated with gualeng mouldings.

Provenance: Grace Wu Bruce, Hong Kong.
Kai-Yin Lo Collection, Hong Kong.

Bibliography: Catherine Maudsley, Classical and Vernacular Chinese Furniture in the Living Environment, Hong Kong, 1998, pp. 152–153.

Note: This painting table is of superb proportion and detailed with refined decorations of gualeng melon-ridge mouldings that are usually found on sloping-stile cabinets of high quality, but are extremely rare on tables. 

Tables with legs not at the corners but recessed are called “an” tables, with “pingtouan” referring to those “an” tables that are flat ended versus those with everted ends. This classic pingtouan design has its origin in ancient Chinese architecture in wood. Pingtouan were used for various functions as seen in woodblock illustrations of Ming books. The present example, being over 70 cm deep is suitable for use as a desk, the modern equivalent of a Ming dynasty painting table. Painting tables are very rare in surviving examples of classic Chinese furniture.

A very similar, but longer, table in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing is illustrated in Zhu Jiajin and Wang Shixiang, eds., Zhongguo Meishu Quanji, Gongyi Meishubian [The Compendium of Chinese Art: Arts and Crafts], vol. 11, Beijing, 1987, pl. 181.

Sotheby's. Ming Furniture – An Asian Private Collection, Hong Kong, 06 avr. 2016, 02:00 PM