Zhou bin, zi Shangjun, a native of Zhangzhou, Fujian province, was one of the most renown carvers of soapstone during the 17th and early 18th centuries. He belonged to a small group of carvers who excelled both technically and artistically and were considered masters in the medium. The present plaque is notable for its unusual and elegant stylisation of taotie masks, thus imbuing the archaic decorative motif with a contemporaneity suited to the aesthetic of when it was created. For further examples of Zhou Bin's work, see a soapstone seal from the Shuisongshi collection, included in the Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition Arts from the Scholar's Studio, Fung Ping Shan Museum, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1986, cat.no. 43, and sold in these rooms, 8th October 2010, lot 2238; and two further pieces exhibited ibid, a brushpot of mottled, opaque honey brown colouration, cat. no. 84, and a figure of a lohan soapstone figure, cat. no. 44.
The stone employed in making the present plaque is of translucent beige-white colouration known as baifurong. Although also mined from the Shoushan area, it is distinctly different from other soapstones with its white speckling within the translucent surface. A set of baifurong stone seals was sold in these rooms, 17th May 1989, lot 410; and a large seal carved with a mythical beast was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 1/3rd May 1994, lot 501.
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