Lot 45. A huanghuali recessed-leg painting table, hua'an, Late Ming–early Qing dynasty; 84 by 56 by h. 183 cm. Estimate: 1,600,000 - 2,000,000 HKD. Lot sold: 2,142,000 HKD. Courtesy Sotheby's.
the long rectangular top set with a floating panel in a moulded frame, above a plain apron with short spandrels, supported on slightly splayed legs of circular section, each pair of legs joined by two horizontal stretchers on the shorter sides.
Note: Tables of this minimalist form represent one of the most versatile and popular designs in Chinese furniture, as evident in their constant popularity through the generations. Historically referred to as ‘character one’ table (yi zi shou shi), as the single horizontal stroke of the Chinese character for the numeral ‘one’ bears resemblance to this linear form, this design appears to have derived from standard wood building construction in use since the Han dynasty. Their light and simple form meant they could be easily moved from one location to another, as revealed in Ming and Qing prints where they are depicted used as altar, painting and also side tables. An illustration of a table of similar design is included in the chapter Lu meng qingyi [Lu’s dream of the cherry maid] of the Wanli period version of Quanxiang xinjuan yijian shangxin bian [Beautiful sight: the complete, fully illustrated edition] (fig. 1).
Fig.1. Illustration in Quanxiang xinjuan yijian shangxin bian [Beautiful sight: the complete, fully illustrated edition], Ming dynasty, Wanli period edition.
Tables of this type were produced in varying sizes, the present example exemplifying a type of larger dimensions, designed for painting. The height and depth are appropriately proportioned for an artist to stand and freely use the brush over a long paper or silk surface. Fine-grain wood was reserved for painting tables as the craftsmen strove for the pure beauty of the grain and structural form.
See an example of wider proportion included in Wang Shixiang and Curtis Evarts, Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, Chicago and San Francisco, 1995, cat. no. 55, together with a larger example, cat. no. 54. A table of this design but smaller in size is illustrated in Wang Shixiang, Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture, Hong Kong, 1990, pl. B81; another example is illustrated in Grace Wu Bruce, Dreams of Chu Tan Chamber and the Romance with Huanghuali Wood, The Dr. S. Y. Yip Collection of Classic Chinese Furniture, Hong Kong, 1991, pl. 22 and sold in these rooms, 7th October 2015, lot 130; and a further example, from the collection of Miriam and Ira D. Wallach, was sold in our New York rooms, 19th/20th March 2013, lot 466.