37 • A Table Screen

37 • A Table Screen

China, probably Shaanxi; 18th century, early Qing dynasty
54.5 cm wide, 19.5 cm deep, 41 cm high
Marble & lacquered wood

One of the most important objects in a scholar’s studio, table screens primarily served to shield the scholar and his candlelight from drafts. Often they were decorated with auspicious symbols or popular stories and these would be lit up by the candlelight it helped protect, assisting the scholar with his contemplation; inspiring tranquillity or creativity.

Whilst most table screens were elaborately carved or painted, this elegant example has been fashioned from a slice of unworked marble, its extraordinary design created by nature herself. With a swirling water-like quality to the marble it might have inspired the scholar who sat in front of it by mirroring his streams of thought.