The recessed-leg table is among the most well-known and immediately recognizable forms found in classical Chinese furniture construction. Tables of this elegant and restrained form, with the graceful splay of the legs, trace their origins to furniture design of the Song dynasty, and several variations on this type are known. The basic proportions were adapted to make large painting tables, smaller tables, benches and stools. This form of table is referred to in the Lu Ban Jing as a 'Character One Table' due to its similarity in profile to the single horizontal stroke of the Chinese character for the number one. Tables of the size of the present table are generally referred to as painting tables.
Tables using large sections of huanghuali, such as seen here, are often considered early examples, as the precious material became harder to acquire in subsequent years. The generous proportions are testament to the fact that the table would have been quite expensive, even at the time of manufacture, and therefore would have likely been in the household of a wealthy literati family.
For a similar, slightly smaller (89 in. long) huanghuali recessed-leg table, see the 16th-17th century example illustrated by Wang Shixiang and Curtis Evarts, Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, Chicago, 1995, p. 114, no. 54, later sold at Christie's New York, 19 September 1996, lot 75. Evarts also points out that this basic form of table has been repeatedly depicted in paintings, as well, from as early as the Song dynasty (960 - 1279). Other tables of this elegant form include the example illustrated by R. H. Ellsworth, Chinese Furniture: One Hundred Examples from the Mimi and Raymond Hung Collection, New York, 1996, pp. 164-5, no. 61, where it is dated ca. 1600-1650, and by G. Ecke, Chinese Domestic Furniture, Vermont and Tokyo, 1962, p. 46, pl. 36.