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A very rare and important rhinoceros horn cup, China, 17th century. photo Nagel Auctions

The relatively heavy rhinoceros horn cup is depicting an intricate and dramatic landscape scenery with torrents and tumultuous waves, a lake and a man punting forward his raft with a long pole against the current and wind blown waves among reeds and along the shore. The masterly and delicate carving renders and realises successfully the dramatic composition and scenery in every tiny detail. Inside, below and parallel to the rim are incised on the plain surface a two lines inscription with ten characters including a cyclical date, together with the signature "Wenshu" and a seal. Furthermore on the bottom of the cup is carved in low relief the square seal of Wenshu with six characters reading "Shengya yipian qingshan" ("My lonely life in this world"). The signature and seals of Zhou Wenshu are possibly authentic, the cyclical date could correspond to the year 1641, a date matching to his supposed dates of life somewhere between c. 1550 and 1660 as estimated by Jan Clapman on p. 142 -

Property from an important old German Academic family collection, bought in China in the late 19th or early 20th ct.

Cf. Jan Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London 1999, p. 142-144, and nos. 163-168; a rhino cup with inscription Wenshu and similar decoration in the collection of the National Palace Museum Taipei, publ. 'Jiangxin yu Xiangong, Mingqing Diaoke Zhan', vol. Ivory and Rhino, 2009, p.121, no. 29, dated to the late Ming/early Qing dynasty and a similar rhino cup with inscription Zhou Wenshu, publ. Thomas Fok, 'Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China', Hong Kong 1999, p.182, no. 130 and a rhino cup with inscription Wenshu in collection of the Harvard University Art Museum, Ibid., p. 183, no. 131, dated to the 17th ct.

Aside one small chip at the rim and a short missing part of a pine branch at the rim and an very few tiny chips at clouds and branches, mainly situated below the rim, fine condition; H. 9,1/L. 14,1cm. Estimate 180 000 / 250 000 €

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A very fine and large rhinoceros horn cup, China, 17th century. photo Nagel Auctions

The cup is excellently carved and decorated with steep mountain scenery with trees, particularly pine trees, and a waterfall with a scholar sitting on a rocky cliff admiring the waterfall. The rich brown colour of the horn changes gradually to a dark brown at the foot. At the rear side of the cup some torn branches of a pine are growing over the rim and hanging partly free into the inside of the cup which had been shaped to stylised rock formations.

Property from an important old German Academic family collection, bought in China in the late 19th or early 20th ct. 

Apart a short missing part of a pine branch at the rim, small lost piece above the stand with piece re-stuck. H. 14,2/L.18,6cm. Estimate 120 000 / 180 000 €

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A fine carved large magnolia rhinoceros horn wine cupfine carved large magnolia rhinoceros horn wine cup, China, 17th century. photo Nagel

Property from an old German private collection, bought in China around 1900

Few very small chips and and short age cracks, very minor repairs. L. 17,3 cm. Estimate 20 000 / 30 000 €

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A fine dark brown rhinoceros horn wine cup with seven chilong, China, 17th-18th century. photo Nagel

Property from an old European private collection

Few small filled chips to very minor repairs, short age crack . L. 15 cm. Estimate 20 000 / 30 000 €

Nagel Auctions. Asian Art. November 3rd 2011. www.auction.de