A filled-in and incised lacquer altar table

Qing dynasty, Kangxi period, 1662-1722, China
清康熙 1662-1722 中國

Height: 82 cm, 32.3 inches - Length: 141.5 cm, 55.7 inches
高82釐米 - 長141.5釐米

The rectangular flat top is supported on four circular legs capped at the feet with brass fittings; each pair of legs is strengthened with double stretchers going from front to back, and by a deep apron that surrounds the table and drops down lappet-like to flank the top of each leg. The light wood structure is lacquered with a dark red ground and decorated by the filled-in and incised technique, known as t’ien-ch’i – using black and light red. The table’s top depicts a naturalistic scene of flowering peony bushes amongst rocks, and birds in flight; this scene is framed by a diaper border – each diaper centered by a swastika. The border is interspersed by cartouche panels depicting flowers of the four seasons and scrolling leaves. Lotus flower sprays and scrolls decorate the edge of the top – divided by short lengths of key fret design; the legs and apron are also decorated with lotus flowers and scrolling leaves.

Filled-in and incised lacquer is achieved by incising the outlines of the design and then inlaying, or painting in, selected areas – with contrasting colours. The technique is described in ‘Chinese Lacquer’ by Sir Harry Garner, London, 1979 – chapter 9.


Alice Boney, Tokyo 1960. Ambassador Pierre Landy, Paris.

Similar Examples

The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (I), no. 53, The Commercial Press (Hong Kong) Ltd., 2002 – plate 143 illustrates a table of the same construction and of similar size – although finished in a different lacquer technique. Plate 91 illustrates the same technique and similar decoration.

A & J Speelman Oriental Art exhibition catalogue, 1990 – plate 43.

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