THE CHINESE TABLE - September 2009
Altfield Gallery's specialist Autumn exhibition this year focuses once again on The Chinese Table, which is perhaps China's most important contribution to the Asian furniture tradition. China is the only Asian country that left floor-level mat living, and adopted raised living centuries ago, and China therefore stands alone as the only country in Asia which has a fully developed range of furniture in its vocabulary, providing a rich assortment of forms for collectors and enthusiasts.

Tables have always played an important and varied role in the Chinese household, providing decorative surfaces for the practice of painting and calligraphy, the display of antiques and sculpture, for the eating of meals and the playing of games, and also importantly for use as altars and incense platforms for the veneration of ancestors.

Excellent examples can still be found in today's antique market, exhibiting both regional styles as well as classic traditional proportions. In the collection being exhibited, graceful and highly decorated 18th century forms from Shanxi stand next to unadorned examples from Hebei, that are identical in style to early Ming pieces. The contrast bears witness to the rich variety of styles found not just in tables, but also in all furniture from China's past.

Of particular interest in the collection that has been acquired for this show is a massive 18th century scholar's display table with scrollwork carved aprons from Shanxi, an elegant 18th century painting table with platform fretwork stretcher from Suzhou, and a fine walnut altar table with stunningly carved foliate-dragon details from Hebei.