A magnificent and superbly carved archaistic rhinoceros horn 'chilong' libation cup, Qianlong period (1736-1795)

Lot 1719. A magnificent and superbly carved archaistic rhinoceros horn 'chilong' libation cup, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 8 3/8 in. (21.2 cm.) across. Weight: 22.2 oz. (630 gm). Estimate 3,000,000 - HKD 4,000,000. Price Realized: HK$7,047,500 ($907,034)© Christie's Images Ltd 2008

The spectacularly large, well-proportioned cup fashioned from a single piece of rhinoceros horn, the tapering body with a wide pinched pouring lip, exquisitely carved with keyfret borders contouring the inner and outer rim, the waisted mid-section and foot meticulously detailed in thread relief with bands of taotie masks divided by shallow, notched flanges, carved all over in high relief with thirty-nine lively chilong clambering around the sides and over into the interior, the curved strap-handle with large tiger head terminal, the whole raised on a high slightly flared foot, the material of lustrous golden amber tone darkening slightly at the core, wood stand, box. 

Literature: T. Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 66, no.19
Art Collection, 2001, no. 105
Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth: Gems of Antiquities Collection in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 2004, pl. 69

Exhibited: Hong Kong Museum of Art, Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth: Gems of Antiquities Collection in Hong Kong, 2002-2005

Notes: Previously sold at Sotheby's New York, 23-25 April 1987, lot 289

The massive size of this cup and the meticulous detail that has gone into carving the thirty-nine chilong around the sides of the cup make this a remarkable example of rhinoceros horn carving from the Qianlong period. They demonstrate at once the flamboyance of the Qianlong style and the technical virtuosity attained by the carvers of this period.

Christie's Hong Kong. Important Chinese Rhinoceros Horn Carvings from the Songzhutang Collection. 27 May 2008