Chinese carvers rarely signed their work and to find a piece with the maker's name signifies the patronage he enjoyed in this form of art. Although a number of figural carvings can be found signed by the carver Zixiu, little is known about him. For a detailed discussion of the possible dating of Zixiu's works see Gerard Tsang and Hugh Moss, Arts from the Scholar's Studio, Hong Kong, 1986, pp. 160 and 162, where a lohan figure is illustrated, pl. 135, together with another figure, pl. 136, both bearing the signature 'Zixiu'. Zixiu's carving style is generally recognizable by the execution of the faces, the detailed carving of facial hair and the use of pearls and pale turquoise glass beads for decoration. For further examples of his work see a seated figure of a lohan sold in these rooms 30th October 2000, lot 261 and later sold again in these rooms 8th October 2010 lot 2209, from the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat Collection. Another figure of a lohan sold in our London rooms, 13th May 2009, lot 9.
For further examples of soapstone figures see those carved by a contemporary of Zixiu and member of a group of carvers who produced soapstone figures of this type called Zhou Bin. A finely carved figure of a seated lohan signed by Zhou Bin in the National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing, is illustrated in Zhongguo wenwu jinghua daquan: Jin yin yu shi juan, Hong Kong, 1994, p. 83, pl. 242; and another was included in the exhibition In Scholar's Taste, Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, 1983, cat. no. 123, where this type of soapstone carving is discussed. See also a group of three soapstone figures, from the collection of Sir Hans Sloane which entered the British Museum, London, on his death in 1753, published in R. Soame Jenyns, Chinese Art. The Minor Arts II, London, 1965, p. 270, pl. 182. Jenyns, ibid., p. 270, notes that one of the pieces illustrated, either the seated lohan with the begging bowl or the one standing must be Sloane's 'Chinese idol with pott (sic)' which he acquired before 1718.
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