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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 87 

Lot 87

Lot 87
Treasury 3, no. 398 (‘The Child-Embracing Pebblestone’)

Limestone conglomerate; adequately but not extensively hollowed, with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim
Height: 7.73 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.98/2.10 cm
Stopper: amethyst; silver collar

Eldred’s, East Dennis, MA., 27 September 1992, lot AL 153.

Kleiner 1995, no. 293
Treasury 3, no. 398

British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

This distinctive material is classified by snuff-bottle collectors as a form of puddingstone, which is reasonable enough, and usually distinguished as a soft-puddingstone or limestone conglomerate. It is quite different mineralogically from quartz puddingstone (for which see Sale 5, lot 66), although formed in a similar manner. Quartz puddingstone was apparently not used by the Chinese lapidary prior to the Qing dynasty and was then almost entirely confined to snuff bottles (although see a carving of a frog in Tsang and Moss 1986, no. 87, which is an exception to this rule). This type of limestone conglomerate, on the other hand, is well-known in other Chinese arts dating back to the Tang dynasty and is one of the commoner materials for table-tops in the furniture trade of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

According to one Chinese dealer who has travelled extensively in China, this material is known as lishi (‘pebblestone’) which seems entirely appropriate. It is reported to come from Shandong province. But it has another popular name: baozi shi (‘embracing children stone’), perhaps derived from the appearance of lots of little stones contained within a larger one.

Being a soft stone, this is within the range of materials that is very rarely well hollowed, such as soapstone, serpentine, inkstone, and so forth. It is well made, however, of excellent formal integrity and imposing shape—rather noble in fact, with its confident and portly profile and commanding size.


This is not the Sotheby’s sale catalogue. This is a product of Hugh Moss for the purposes of this website. For the catalogue details please refer to Sotheby’s website or request a copy of a printed sale catalogue from Sotheby’s.



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