Chinese soapstone figures are rarely the flavour of the month. They tend to sell relatively cheaply, living very much in the shadow of of more popular hardstone and jade relics. There was, however, a bit of a surprise this week at Chiswick auctions when a rather pretty figural group (illustrated above) made £32,400, inclusive of premium.
The catalogue entry did promise rather more than its modest estimate.
A CHINESE SOAPSTONE ‘LUOHAN AND LION’ GROUP.
Qing Dynasty, 19th / 20th Century.
The group naturalistically carved to depict a Luohan standing in front of a bulging sack, wearing a long flowing robe and holding a ball, a recumbent lion looking up at him, borne on scrolling clouds, decorated with finely incised carving and inlaid decoration, signed Shangjun to the reverse, raised on a carved and pierced cloud-form wooden stand, 6.5cm.
Shangjun is a pseudonym adopted by the mid-17th Century master carver Zhou Bin, a native of Zhangzhou, Fujian. For a similarly signed soapstone see Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong, 1986, no 44.
The Zhou Bin attribution clearly carried some weight but it was, nevertheless, a considerable achievement to get the price.
Well worked detail on the Zhou Bin soapstone group sold at Chiswick Auctions