Large tables would have been centrally placed within a scholar’s studio. With its broad surface, these tables could easily accommodate the decorative objects and accoutrements associated with the scholar, such as a brush, an inkstone, a water pot, a brush pot, and a small scholar’s rock. Corner-leg tables require humpback stretchers or braces for strength and stability. The high-waisted table is a type of corner-leg table and with this type of table, the waist provides an added strength that makes the presence of stretchers redundant, thus giving high-waisted tables a simplicity in design and lightness of form. It is an elegant example of how Ming-dynasty carpenters were able to integrate construction and design into a single piece of furniture. A huanghuali high-waisted table, of similar proportions, dated to the late sixteenth-early seventeenth century, is illustrated by Kai-Yin Lo in Classical and Vernacular Chinese Furniture in the Living Environment, Hong Kong, 1998, pp. 148-9, no. 26.
With its high waist and three drawers, the present table illustrates how variations within a classic design could be formed through subtle changes and refinement of details. The drawers are cleverly hidden below the table frame, and are secured by small, retractable pins on the supporting struts. Drawers are often associated with late seventeenth century-eighteenth century furniture construction, as they first entered the Chinese furniture vocabulary with the introduction of Western-style furniture. A similar four-drawer huanghuali high-waisted corner-leg table, interestingly set with ‘giant arm braces’, is in a private Seattle collection and is illustrated by Grace Wu in Ming Furniture Through My Eyes, Beijing, 2015, p. 50, where the author states that in her experience she has only seen this form in Shanghai or its surrounding area. Another related example in huanghuali and dated to the late seventeenth century, set with a single drawer and of smaller proportions, is illustrated by M. Flacks in Classical Chinese Furniture, New York, 2012, p. 188, where the author states that it was most likely used as an incense stand. An eight-drawer zitan painting table constructed with round legs and wraparound stretchers and carved allover with famous Qing-dynasty calligraphy and paintings is in the Qing Court collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (II), Hong Kong, 2002, pp. 140-1, no. 125.