02b27a63a41c66517cd6987ccdf70d4b

A very rare metal-mounted painted soapstone 'Liu Hai' snuff box and cover, Qianlong, probably circa 1750. Photo courtesy Bonhams

037L13211_6ZHF4_1

The cover carved with the Daoist God of Wealth and Prosperity subduing the three-legged frog, wearing loose robes incised at the hems, his left hand holding a pearl and right dangling a string of coins seducing the mythical creature, the stone of beige tone with traces of green and pink pigment remaining. 5.7cm wide; 6.5cm deep; 3.1cm high. Estimate HK$ 95,000 - 115,000 (€9,100 - 11,000)

270d97ce334b01faef23fd25b9594b91

It is interesting to note the different way in which the Cantonese craftsman has created the mount than in which a European box-maker would have finished it to hold these heavy pieces of soapstone in place. A European craftsman would have folded the tops of the metal mounts over on top of the lower section, to create a flat surface and provide a more attractive edge while giving a slightly less airtight finish. The Canton craftsman has left the mounts with a vertical flange in top, which had the double effect of creating a tighter seal, but at the same time making the horizontally ribbed mount appear much larger and heavier than it needs to be between the soapstone top and base. 

20131018_151613

For a very comparable documented soapstone-mounted box and cover in an early European silver mount dated to the late 17th/18th century, see the example in the British Museum from the MLA Hull Grundy Gift, Cat. 411. The Hull Grundy box is recorded as having been given as a gift in 1712. It carries a coarsely-carved roundel depicting the Star God of Longevity Shoulao, set on an early filigree silver casing. 

Bonhams. THE SPEELMAN COLLECTION OF CHINESE 'IMPERIAL TRIBUTE' SNUFF BOXES. Hong Kong. 24 Nov 2013 13:00 CST