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Details & Cataloguing

Ming Furniture – The Dr S Y Yip Collection

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Hong Kong

A LARGE HUANGHUALI PAINTING TABLE, HUA ZHUO
LATE MING DYNASTY
of high rectangular form, the top of standard mitre, mortise and tenon construction with a flush and beautifully grained single-board, tongue-and-grooved into the frame, the floating panel supported by four dovetailed stretchers underneath, the edge of the frame gently rounded, the aprons moulded to appear as two rounded members with small rounded end pieces, the aprons made of one piece of wood and dovetailed into the rounded legs to join with each other, the rounded and humpback-shaped stretchers similarly dovetailed into the legs and probably hidden tennoned to the underside of the aprons, the round legs double tennoned into the frame top, S-shaped braces mortised and tennoned to the legs and half-lapped and woodpinned to the braces at the ends beneath the table
83.4 by 213 by 76.3 cm., 32 7/8  by 83 7/8  by 30 in.
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Exhibited

Grace Wu Bruce, Dreams of Chu Tan Chamber and the Romance with Huanghuali Wood: The Dr. S. Y. Yip Collection of Classic Chinese Furniture, Art Museum, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1991, cat. no. 24, pp. 72-73.
The Chinese Collections, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, 1997-99.
Museum Für Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin, 2000-02.

Literature

Yip Shing Yiu, 'Collecting Ming Furniture of Huang Hua-Li Wood', Arts of Asia, May-June 1991, p. 120, fig. 6.

Catalogue Note

"I would regard this as the best painting table of its type in the world, an open challenge! Bamboo mouldings give it the edge."

Painting tables, large-scale pieces of a certain depth suitable to
be used as desks, belong to the rarest type of tables in surviving
examples of Ming furniture. Bamboo or cane furniture was often
depicted in Song (960-1280) and Ming (1368-1644) paintings.
Guotui or ‘wrap around the legs’ method of making furniture with
precious hardwood was inspired by their bamboo counterparts.
This table, with its rounded surfaces and round legs, was designed
to imitate a bamboo table. The use of precious hardwood
to simulate common materials illustrates the sensibilities of
understatement considered high-form by the Ming elite.

This excellent example has all round or rounded members, drawing its influence from bamboo furniture design. The normally straight or humpback-shaped stretchers below the aprons are curved to join up with the aprons in order to make more legroom. The decrease in stability caused by this feature is compensated by S-shaped braces, mortised and tennoned to the legs and the transverse brace underneath the table.

There are few zhuo tables of sufficient depth to be called painting tables and there are no comparable published pieces of a similar design. A painting table of similar size but with a waisted and hoof-feet design is illustrated in Grace Wu Bruce, Sublime and Divine Chinese Ming Furniture, Hong Kong, 2014, pp. 114-119.

Ming Furniture – The Dr S Y Yip Collection

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Hong Kong