Stampeding Horses

Written by Lu

Someone recently sent pictures of a carving of stampeding horses asking if the stone was shoushan and because of its color if it might be the variety called tianhuang, adding they had heard a description of tianhuang as “looking like canned peaches.”

Typical shoushan tianhuang stone
Typical shoushan tianhuang (a picture plucked at random from the internet). Does it look like canned peaches?

I think it is definitely shoushan stone but not the tianhuang variety. I hadn’t heard before of its looking like canned peaches but that’s a fairly good description. High quality tianhuang stone is hardly available any more, its sources having been exhausted a long time ago. As such, it is terribly expensive. Tianhuang is a light pale yellow to tan color and very translucent with an even color. These horses don’t have that level of translucency and there’s a greater variety in the color. I don’t want to get into any arguments about it though as some who know better than I do may call it tianhuang—but not of the highest quality (and probably more as a marketing decision). I suspect it is a fairly modern piece, probably carved within the last fifty years or so—and carvings such as this are worth a lot of money. You can find others like it by searching the internet. As for the material, the stone used for sculpture like this is the same material we use for seals.

The person who sent the pictures was thinking about buying it and also wondered if I thought it was worth the asking price, but I know better than to stick my neck out and give an opinion where money is involved. I once knew a museum art curator and collector who told me that a work of art is worth what you can get for it. The price for art goes up and down with the market so it is almost impossible to say how much anything is worth—tomorrow it may be worth more or it may be worth less. The only thing that matters is if the artwork is worth for you whatever price the seller is asking. Buy for enjoyment and not for investment.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. cristina johnston

    I am now the owner of this sculpture. One of the horse heads was broken off during transit, it is about one inch and fits without any gap. Weller says I can return it for money back or return it and their conservationist will repair it to be sent back. I am worried about shipping damage as this is the second horse sculpture I purchased in one month, the other much bigger weighing 25 pounds was broken into 12 pieces whereas with this one only one of the heads broke off. Worried that USPS or any other carrier might drop and make the breakage worse.

    How can I repair it? I thought perhaps a pin inserted in both ends if a local jeweler will agree to do that and glue it back to stabilize the head of the horse.
    Any kind of glue recommended?

    1. Lu

      I agree that you increase the risk of breakage every time you ship it. The best way to repair it, if the two pieces match, is to use some superglue (cyanoacrylate). I would not bother to pin it, which might weaken it or cause further damage. Once superglue dries it will be harder and stronger than the two pieces of stone it joins. The nice thing is that it dries quickly so you don’t have to hold it in place very long. Follow the directions on the container, be sure to quickly wipe off any excess that is pressed out of the crack, and be careful not to glue your fingers together!

  2. cristina johnston

    I am the person who wrote and asked if this is shoushan. Purchased it, arrived today. It is described in the original silk box as
    寿山芙蓉石简介: 芙蓉石产于福州晋安区寿山乡东南之加良山,质优者与玉质极相似,光润而凝细,微透明晶莹可爱,色彩有白、黄、红、青、花等多种。
    So, my understanding is it is Furong.

    The picture is the same but the sculpture does not have have the shine or glow as in the picture. I read that I have to oil it regularly with mineral oil? How often? Any mineral oil?

    1. Lu

      I’m not too familiar with Furong Shoushan stone but “furong” is also used as a generic term for any colorful or “flashy” stone. Soft stone like this is often not hard enough to hold a good polish by itself and so may have oil applied to give more depth and surface shine. I like to use unscented baby oil though any generic mineral oil with no additives can be used—be especially careful that the oil has no color of any kind. Whenever the stone looks “flat” you can apply a bit of oil with a soft cloth or brush. It’s okay to flood the surface with oil and let it soak in overnight but be sure to wipe off any excess the next day. If too much oil is left on the surface it will get gummy as it dries and attract dust.

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