Large single panel huanghuali painting tables, such as the present example, are extremely rare. It is even rarer to find the unusual feature of the decorated apron framed by pairs of stretchers on the narrow side. A large painting table of slightly smaller proportions (77 3/8 in. wide) with openwork panels between pairs of stretchers is illustrated by Robert Ellsworth in Chinese Furniture: Hardwood Examples of the Ming and Ch’ing Dynasties, New York, 1970, p. 155, pl. 51, 51a and 51b (fig. 1). The table published by Ellsworth does not have the finely raised beading on the aprons and spandrels which further distinguish the present example. A smaller painting table with square section legs and stretchers, and also with a beaded openwork panels between pairs of stretchers is illustrated in Grace Wu Bruce, Sublime and Divine, China, 2015, p. 50-2.
According to Wang Shixiang in Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture, Ming and Early Qing Dynasties, vol. I, Chicago, p. 68, “Beijing cabinet-makers classify tables that are 76 cm or more in [depth] as painting tables and tables that are smaller as long narrow tables. Tables less than 76 cm [deep] cannot comfortably accommodate silk or paper sheets for painting.” Any table with proportions of width to depth comparable to the present table should be considered a painting table. A true painting table, the surface must be broad enough to accommodate a large painting and the accoutrements associated with painting or calligraphy, such as ink, ink stones, brushes, and washers, such as illustrated by a Ming dynasty woodblock print from Xi Xiang Ji (fig. 2). Tables of this large size would also be ideal for the appreciation of a painting.