Although white marble stools of drum shape are known, the present pair is of a particularly rare diminutive size. The bowed shape of all of these stools imitates that of wooden drums and the rows of bosses imitate the nails that held the tautly pulled leather end coverings in place. A white marble stool of the larger type (50 cm. high), originally in the Forbidden City, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Ming and Qing Furniture in the Palace Museum – 6 – Stools, Beijing, 2015, p. 291. The sides are carved in high relief with lion-head and ring handles surrounded by scrolling tendrils. Another larger (41 cm. high) pair of marble stools carved with ring handles and dated to the 17th century is illustrated by MD Flacks Ltd, Stools, Spring 2009, no. 13.
The unusual quadrilobed or begonia-shaped ‘openings’ (haitangshi) carved on the sides of the present stools are smaller versions of the similarly shaped large openings cut into the sides of two wooden drum-shaped stools in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated by Wang Shixiang in Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture, Hong Kong, 1990, vol. I, pp. 29 and 30, pls. A35 and A36. Openings of this shape can also be seen on two lacquer boxes of 17th-18th century date illustrated in Ryukyuan Lacquerware from the Urasoe Art Museum Collection, 1995, one a tiered food box of octagonal shape, p. 93, no. 66, the other a tall tiered food box of square shape, p. 120, no. 9. On both of these boxes the openings reveal an underlying surface of a different material, but are positioned horizontally rather than vertically.