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Unfamiliar mark on "soapstone Lohan"
I was looking at this small carving (4 inches across at the base, maybe) when I noticed it was marked underneath. I couldn't see them as they were so small, so I took a photo t enlarge but am still non the wiser. Does anyone recognise them please?
I don't think this is an old item and it may not even be soapstone - didn't like to try to scratch i!
Thanks for your help.
This delightful little figure looks like Soapstone.
Appears to have the original stand and box. The carving is superb and signifies a master carver. Based on just your pictures I would submit that this figure would date from the late Qing period. So 1890-1910 in my opinion. Would really liked to have seen the back of this figure in order to clarify/determine the age etc. The back should really show/continue with the flow design of the robes/other present on the front. If not, then I submit a later item.
A sought after and expensive item in my opinion. In recent times Soapstone figures of this caliber have really found their niche in the market and have produced some surprising results.
I would love to own this figure at the right price of course. 😁
Thank you, Mark; it is very nicely carved. In fact it is beautiful and such a lovely colour and nice feel. I don't think I took a photo of the rear otherwise I would show you. I am going to bid on this one, especially if it may be a little older than I thought. There is some interest in it, but I will let you know how it goes.
I will do some research to see what a reasonable price would be.
Thank you so much for your opinion.
Dear Mark and Julia,
Difficult to tell for sure based on a single picture and even small, but I would not be enthusiast about it.
The box is not old, for what that is worth, the wood base is new.
How can we be sure that it is not resin?
Better inspection is necessary before to spend money for it IMO, may be I am being too much cautious.
You are right to be cautious especially with limited pictures. Said figures are being mass produced in China etc.
However, I am fairly confident that based on what I can see that the carving is in fact, Soapstone and not resin in my opinion. I see no evidence of any bubbles or cast type lines. Once again I repeat that it is only one picture and low quality.
As already stated would liked to have viewed the reverse in order to determine said factors in a more definitive response. Of course it would need hands on view to determine that it is not resin. The detail on the face and robe/other suggests to my eye that it is old and not new. Soapstone and not resin.
The stand appears to be normal for that type of ware including late Qing, early republic period. Whether it is in fact a later stand or other I don't know for certain Same with the box. Extremely difficult to access given limited pictures.
I know so little about this kind of thing but my concern is the marks on the base. They aren't randon so they must have some purpose or meaning. They do disturb me a bit.
It didn't strike me as being made of resin, but again, I have limited knowledge. However, the few resin items I have encountered have not had such detail in the expression. They have been more blurred, less sharp.
The stand I remember, had been filed or cut to provide a good fit. At least, that is what it looked like. I may be wrong, I wasn't paying enough attention.
So, tomorrow there is a viewing before the auction and I will go to have another look.
If you have time, please tell me exactly what good or bad things I need to look for. For example, this looked almost like amber and felt very smooth. How warm/cold should it feel? The reverse should show the same level of carving/decoration, is that correct. Where am I most likely to see signs of bubbles or moulding?
Thanks for your help and I won't take any risks. Besides, there are another couple of lamps like, too, so I may save my money for that!
I really appreciate all this help. Thank you. I hope it is useful to others, too.
Have a nice evening!
Hi Julia -
Really not my area at all, so will defer to Mark and Giovanni ...
If you can whilst viewing try to take some additional images of the back, base and some close-ups to post ...
Leaving the issue of the stand and box aside and only on the figure itself I can recommend you do the following.
I assume you own a loupe? With said loupe carefully examine the finer areas like the eyes, mouth, hands and any areas where the individual/other is sort of leaning or cringed. Especially the clothing and the lower part of the figure where he is in a sitting position. If you have not used one recently, may I suggest you practice a little before examining the figure. Make sure your loupe is clean and clear. You would be surprised how many I have seen even by seasoned collectors that have grubby loupes.
There you will see, upon careful examination if the figure is indeed Soapstone or resin. It won't look natural. You will see areas that have double like effects along with bubbles and seams/lines that are not part of the carving itself, almost blurred like visual with pits, holes or bubbles. Have a look at the base. Any seams, lines, pots, holes or bubbles? If a really good resin then sometimes they forget about the base, and concentrate only on the figure itself. Does any of the detail fade away to nothing and or blurred double like. Like a circle that is sort of glued together, ever so slightly apart. Like a perfect circle that has evidence of pimple like appearance that sort of take form of the circle. Once again will be visible using your trusty loupe.
A good carver will be able to demonstrate great skill with details therein because the stone is very soft. An amateur carver will fail to display the finer details like the inner eyes,mmouth and or fingertips etc etc. A resin will show nothing of the finer detail. Period!
As the materials name suggest it will feel like holding a bar of soap. Resin will not!
Since the front of the figure is fairly detailed, so should the back be. If the contours of the back along with the detail of his clothing are not present then the figure is modern.
There should be some evidence of scratches not present when said was carved, also perhaps when it was being carved. Ever so slight slipped tool marks etc will be seen only via using a loupe.
Soapstone is a very soft stone and will inevitably have some scratches overall. In particular to the base and the outer extremities. If no scratches or unnatural marks then could be either resin or new! Any chips however small will show that it is stone rather than resin. I have never seen a 19th century or earlier Soapstone figure without some form of use/wear and tear.
Figure should be a little bit cool to feel. Not like jade, but similar. Resin will be warmer to feel. Generally speaking Soapstone should be heavier than most known resin. Not important if you don't know the difference or have trouble there. Only experienced collectors know the difference in what is called hefting.
Finally have a look at some genuine examples from sotheby's, christies and bonhams. Pay attention to the detail on the front and back.
Good luck, Julie on your adventure and please let us know the outcome.
..... BTW please check that the figures head has not been glued back on. I have seen many old carvings that have had substantial damage etc. 😊
Thank you so much Mark! 🤗
Yes, I have a loupe, it is right in front of me. I will check it is clean and take it with me. I will also print up this info otherwise I will forget!
I really appreciate this and will report back later.
Well what can I say! Thank you so much! I took the loupe and had a good look. I am not entirely certain but I do think it is resin. The back is decorated as you said it should be but I can see that some of the things that look like carving are actually black lines. Through the loupe it looks far more like the slightly fuzzy resin items I have seen before.
I also held the soapstone items I own before I left hone, that was useful. The figure is distinctly warmer and more plasticky.
And there are still those odd marks on the base that I really don't like.
Giovanni, thank you for the suggestion it was resin and you were right about the stand, too. I didn't handle the box but I assume you were right there, too.
Mark, thank you for all that helpful information. Thank you for telling me to use a loupe, the difference was incredible. I have learnt so much from your post and I hope it has helped others, too.
Lamps here I come!
Sold (apparently) on commission bids for £150. No actual bidding on it on the day.
I am really pleased that things worked out for you with this statue.
So it was resin after all by your reckoning . I take it that the price it sold for indicates to me that others also thought the same because if it had been real Soapstone and from late Qing period then it would have most certainly attracted a much higher price.
I take my hat of to Giovanni for picking it up first. 😁
Hi Giovianni and Mark,
Some really excellent advice given to Julia, and everyone here, on what to look for when viewing and handling such pieces👏👏 ...
Thank you both ...
your suggestion of close inspection with a loupe is excellent and I myself really should always follow it.
It happened many times to me to buy something at street markets and then find out, after closer inspection at home, that I have been wrong.
Thank you Giovanni.
As a general rule when ever I go out I always carry with me either a Nikon 10x or my favorite one being a folding 12x.
It helps as my eyes are not what they used to be.
Thank you guys, for all your comments. Very much appreciated.
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