In its shape and design this rare table closely follows a type more commonly associated with the Wanli period of the Ming dynasty. The present table shares the same cusped aprons that extend to rectangular sectioned legs each gently flaring to leaves, pad and extending to supports at the feet, with a Wanli marked table of the same type in the Palace Museum Beijing, illustrated in Classics of the Forbidden City. Classics of the Forbidden city. Imperial Furniture of Ming & Qing Dynasties
, Beijing, 2008, p. 142, fig. 155. Wang Shixiang observes that forms and designs of Chinese furniture did not change significantly over time, often following earlier prototypes, compare Wang Shixiang, 'Development of Furniture Design and Construction from the Song and the Ming', Chinese Furniture. Selected Articles from Orientations 1984-1999
, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 42. A distinguishing feature of these later tables, however, is the small flower bud at the centre of the apron as seen on the present table, a feature that can be found on other examples of late Ming and early Qing tables of this type, compare, for instance, two tables dated to the late Ming or early Qing period also in the collection of the Palace Museum, published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties
(1), Hong Kong, 2002, pls. 103 and 156.
Like the present table, both these examples are decorated with a painted lacquer design of sinuous writhing dragons. Polychrome lacquer furniture that was either brush painted or gold-engraved and filled-in in the qiangjin and tianqi technique was popular in the late Ming dynasty, its popularity continuing well into the early Qing dynasty such as this rare table shows. Although it does not bear a reign mark, the five-clawed dragons suggest that it was made for one of the halls of the Imperial palaces. The superb quality of the design indicates that it may have been made by the Yu Yong Jian, the Imperial Furniture Workshop, located in the Imperial Palace and responsible for making all the furniture used by the imperial family.