A reticulated stem 'Lotus leaf' rhinoceros horn libation cup, Qing dynasty, 17th-18th century

Lot 3017. A reticulated stem 'Lotus leaf' rhinoceros horn libation cup, Qing dynasty, 17th-18th century; 25.5 cm., 10 1/8 in. Estimate 1,000,000 — 1,500,000 HKD. Lot sold 1,720,000 HKD. Photo Sotheby's

the highly polished amber and black coloured conically shaped long-tipped horn carved in the form of a cup shaped furled lotus leaf, with subtle veining on the interior, wrapped on the exterior in relief with a large lotus flower and a veined leaf, together with a branch of flowering reed, all issuing from ribbon-tied long thin stalks, wooden stand.

Note: The carver of the present piece has highlighted the elegance of the original conical shape of the horn by incorporating its solid tip and transforming it into stems of a lotus plant. The inspiration for cups of this type may have come from one of the earliest carvings known from the Qing Court collection, attributed to the early Ming dynasty, which also uses the entire horn in creating its mallow flower form, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings, Shanghai, 2001, pl. 109.

Compare related lotus leaf cups where the whole length of the horn has been skilfully preserved, such as one in the collection of Michel de Selys Longchamps, included in Thomas Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 95; and another, in the collection of Dora Wong, exhibited in the Sackler Museum, Washington D.C. and illustrated in Shijie Zhoukan [World Journal], no. 852, 2000, p. 12. Compare also two fine cups, one from the collection of Franklin Chow, published ibid., pl. 96, and sold in these rooms, 8th April 2011, lot 2703; and two further examples sold in our London rooms, 31st October 1986, lot 175, and 27th October 1989, lot 186.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 08 april 2014