Previously sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 30 April 1995, lot 566A.
An interesting point of note is the combination of the two decorative motifs: the traditional Chinese peony blossom and European style acanthus leaves. In this instance, the beaded elements growing amongst furled leaves carved on the aprons probably represented stylised acanthus flowers; the blossoms of which grow in gradated form along their stems. The acanthus motif was popularly adopted by Emperor Qianlong particularly in the decoration of his magnificent European palaces, Xiyanglou, located in the northern part of the Yuanmingyuan. These European Palaces, built between 1747-1759, were designed for the Emperor by European Jesuit missionary artists who were employed at the Chinese Court. The resulting buildings combine a mixture of Italian rococo style with possibly Mughal-inspired foliate and floral elements. The present table and the zitan stool from the following lot 1674 are good examples of the heightened fashion of this period where an occidental design is applied on a highly valued hardwood known as zitan or purple sandalwood.
Zitan wood became a very expensive commodity by the early Qing period since their number dwindled dramatically from excessive lumbering activities throughout the Ming dynasty. The scarcity was compounded by the fact that these trees are slow growing and required centuries to fully mature into usable material. Although local sources of zitan exist in the southern provinces of Yunnan, Guangdong and Guangxi, much of the material was imported from Southeast Asia. As an imported material, at the imperial workshops zitan wood was scrupulously monitored and carefully restricted.