Lot 3016. A very rare huanghuali recessed-leg folding table, 17th-18th century; 37 in. (94 cm.) high, 29 in. (64 cm.) wide, 18 3/4 in. (48 cm.) deep. Estimate HKD 1,500,000 - HKD 2,500,000. Price realised HKD 3,940,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2018
The rectangular top is set within a rectangular frame with beaded edge above plain, aprons separating four short rectangular-section, cloud-shaped legs. The round-section folding legs are attached with pivots to the inner-edge of the shorter legs. The folding legs are joined along the short sides by circular stretchers supporting further diagonal stretchers anchoring the legs within the transverse stretcher of the top frame.
Literature: R. H. Ellsworth, Chinese Furniture: One Hundred and Three Examples from the Mimi and Raymond Hung Collection, vol. 1, New York, 1996, pp. 120-121, no. 40.
Note: Folding furniture appears to have gained in popularity during the Ming period and boasted the dual advantages of portability and storage, but their fragile construction and compactness also led to damage, thus few surviving examples exist. The present table served two functions at full height as a wine table or as a kang with the legs tucked under.
This table appears to be a unique example of a foldable table, where the legs remain attached to the frame when folded. Square slots on the inside edge of the shorter rectangular-section legs accommodate a sliding side stretcher and join the legs with diagonal braces, which lock into the central transverse stretcher. This unusual construction allows for smooth and fluid motion when folding the legs. A low lacquer table in the Victoria and Albert Museum, dating to the early 15th century, is similarly constructed with square slots on the inside of the table legs. (museum number: FE. 1913-1993). This construction suggests that the table would have been raised on tall removeable legs.
Table of red lacquered wood decorated with incised gold, Ming dynasty, Chinese, ca.1410. Height: 28.3 cm, Width: 94 cm, Depth: 41.2 cm. Purchased with Art Fund support, FE.1913-1993 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
In all other examples the longer legs are separate and are removed in order to shorten the table. An example of a huanghuali recessed-leg table with removable legs, from the Dr. S.Y. Yip Collection, was sold at Christie’s New York, 20 September 2002, lot 59. See, also, a huanghuali square table with extending legs, constructed with diagonal braces that lock into the central transverse stretcher in the Minneapolis Institute of Art and illustrated in Robert D. Jacobsen and Nicholas Grindley in Classical Chinese Furniture, Chicago, 1999, pp. 136-137, pl. 46.