Lot 461. An impressive zitan table, Qing dynasty, 19th century; 96.5 by 194.5 by 49.5 cm, 38 by 76 5/8 by 19 1/2 in. Estimate 100,000 — 150,000 HKD. Courtesy Sotheby's.
the long rectangular top composed of two wide boards set within a mitred frame and supported by transverse stretchers, the shorter members of the frame top with exposed tenons, all above a recessed waist and a tongue-and-grooved apron finely carved on the four sides with archaistic ruyi evenly spaced along twisted ropes, the straight legs of square section ending in block hoof feet deftly carved with angular scrolls.
Note: Masterfully carved from the treasured and rare zitan wood, the generous size of this elegant table suggests it was made for the emperor’s personal use. Zitan, a member of the rosewood family, was a rare commodity during the eighteenth century due to its small size and slow pace of growth. For a discussion of zitan and its types, see Tian Jai Qing, ‘Zitan and Zitan Furniture’, Orientations, December 1994, pp 43-49.
Long zitan tables are extremely rare, and only a small number of this size have been sold at auction; see one, from the collections of Robert H. Ellsworth and John Alex McCone, sold in our New York rooms, 26th November 1991, lot 499, and offered again, 23rd March 2011, lot 674; and a slightly smaller version also sold in our New York rooms, 20th March 2002, lot 320.
A fine and rare large Imperial 'zitan' long table (tiaoan), Qing dynasty, Qianlong period, from the collections of Robert H. Ellsworth and John Alex McCone; 75 1/2 x 17 1/4 x 35 1/2 in., 191.8 x 43.8 x 90.2 cm. Sold at Sotheby's New York 26th November 1991, lot 499, and offered again, 23rd March 2011, lot 674. Photo: Sotheby's.
The present table is notable for the ‘rope-twist’ stretchers, a style that was developed during the Qianlong reign and often inset with jade or cloisonné panels; see a zitan table carved with a similar twisted rope and bi-disc designs, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in A Treasury of Ming and Qing Dynasty Palace Furniture from the Palace Museum Collection, vol. 1, Beijing, 2007, pl. 203, together with a black-lacquered kang table, decorated with circular cloisonné plaques, pl. 271; and a pair of hardwood tables inset with jade and cloisonné plaques, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 1st June 2011, lot 3607.
Tables of this type were often made in pairs or sets of four to allow for a symmetrical placement within a large hall, a formal arrangement particularly fashionable during the Qing dynasty. They were also placed in bedrooms next to the large canopied bed to provide a platform to lean on, as writing and painting surfaces in a studio, or in private chambers where they were used for private and informal meals.