Monumental Altar Table

Made in Old China

   Monumental Altar Table; Shanxi Province, China; I.D. # F1509-003
  Monumental Altar Table; Shan Xi Province, China;18th C.; Elm wood; 84 W x 39.5 D x 31 H inches; I.D. # F1509-003; P.O.R.

When it comes to evaluating antique Chinese furniture the western concept of provenance doesn’t really apply. Normally viewed as the history of ownership of art and antiques, it might be applicable if such records existed in China; but they don’t. Yet, define provenance as the source or origin of something – the historical definition – and a whole new world opens up when it comes to Chinese antiques. Instead of placing value upon previous ownership, issues like authenticity, condition, quality, form, rarity, age, material, use, purpose, and even feeling become relevant. Take the time to evaluate an individual piece from this perspective, and this week’s New Arrival scores a perfect ten!

Monumental Altar Table; Shan Xi Province, China; I.D. # F1509-003  

Detail of table waist showing original finish plus "plaque" motif interpreted as blank Ancestor or Spirit Tablets ; I.D. # F1509-003


This week’s New Arrival features a monumental altar table from Shan Xi Province in China. Crafted in the 1700s from Elm wood and then lacquered, the piece retains elements of the original finish along with exquisitely curved convex/concave or cabriole legs atop tapered diamond feet. Formal description aside, its presence is magnified by its majestic size; its purpose as an altar table suggested by the blank ancestor tablets on the waist. When it comes to a piece like this, the western idea of provenance leaves everything to the imagination. It’s easy to imagine this table as the centerpiece in the ancestral hall of a stately home in old China, covered with artifacts made more endearing by its timeless design.  The only thing missing is the name of the owner.