A rare and finely-carved rhinoceros horn pouring vessel. 17th century, 'Xiao Yu' two-character seal mark. Photo Christie's Image Ltd, 2011

Of slightly flared cylindrical form, supported on a slightly splayed foot and rising towards a waisted neck, finely carved around the exterior of the body with taotie masks, each centred on vertical bands of 'C'-scrolls, delicately surmounted by three sinuous chilong with long elegant bifurcated tails in high relief, one crawling through the handle decorated with archaistic motifs on a leiwen ground, all three chilong clambering up to the rim and peering into the interior, the foot encircled with quatrefoil beads joined by a circular band, all below a band of conjoined 'C'-scrolls encircling the mouth rim, the horn of a warm amber-brown tone; 4¾ in. (12.1 cm.) high. Estimate £200,000 - £300,000 . Price Realized £241,250

明末/清初   十七世紀   犀角雕饕餮紋龍盃  「孝玉」篆書款     4¾ in. (12.1 cm.) high

Notes; Comparable examples of similar form, also signed, include a rare rhinoceros horn pouring vessel, formerly in the Robert H. Blumenfield Collection, sold in our New York rooms, 25 March 2010, lot 889.

The current vessel is not only important due to its rare form with incredibly fine decoration, but it also bears an unrecorded two-character seal mark to the base reading 'Xiao Yu'.  This seal mark, carved in low relief to the centre of the base in zhuanshu script, most likely refers to a specific carver. Jan Chapman in her book The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carvings in China, London, 1999, p. 120, mentions that one in ten rhinoceros horn cups carry some sort of inscription.

Christie's. Important Rhinoceros Horn and Jade Carvings From A Distinguished European Collection, 8 November 2011, London, King Street www.christies.com