A carved rhinoceros horn figure of Li Bai. 17th Century

The sage poet well-carved in the round, seated in a relaxed posture with one hand resting on his knee and the other holding a wine cup, his hair gathered in a top-knot above his expressive face, his scholar's robe falling in folds and spreading out around him, an eight character inscription reading Jianwen er nian Zhang Sheng [yu] yong incised in a horizontal line across the figure's back. 3 1/2in (8.9cm) high Sold for HK$960,000


Footnote: Li Bai (701-762) is often regarded as one of the two greatest poets in China's literary history, the other being Du Fu. More than a thousand Li Bai poems are known today.

Li Bai is best known for the extravagant imagination and striking Daoist imagery in his poetry, as well as for his great love of wine. He was part of the group of Chinese scholars called the 'Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup', gathered together in a poem by Du Fu. In the poem, Li Bai is said to be able to compose one hundred lines of verse after drinking one measure of wine.

The present lot alludes to Li Bai's reputation and probably also echos one of Li Bai's own poems Qiang jin jiu 將進酒 (Please Imbibe). Two famous lines in the poem read 人生得意須盡歡,莫使金樽空對月 (live life to the fullest, never raise an empty cup to the moon).

十七世紀 犀角李太白醉酒像 《建文二年張勝[御]用》款

Bonhams. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 4 Dec 2008. Hong Kong.  Copyright © 2002-2008 Bonhams 1793 Ltd., Images and Text All Rights Reserved. www.bonhams.com