A rhinoceros horn ‘Prunus tree’ libation cup, Qing Dynasty , 17th-18th century

Lot 3790. A rhinoceros horn ‘Prunus tree’ libation cup, Qing Dynasty , 17th-18th century. Estimate 500,000 — 700,000 HKD. Lot Sold 2,320,000 HKD. Photo: Sotheby’s. 

carved on the exterior with burls and knots simulating a tree trunk, the handle formed by two branches issuing thin twigs bearing prunus buds and blossoms, the flowering twigs and branches extending across the sides of the vessel and onto the interior of the vessel, the surface of a lustrous patinated warm amber tone, wood stand; 17.6 cm., 7 in.

Notes: The linearity of the prunus design adorning this cup, seen in the angular branches and the bold form of the prunus flowers that stretch around the exterior, suggests the design was inspired by woodblock prints of the Ming dynasty. An effective visual and tactile contrast is achieved through the high relief flowering branches and the smoothly polished ground. One of the ‘Three Friends of Winter’, together with the pine and bamboo, the prunus represents strength and endurance.

A similar cup was sold in these rooms, 22nd May 1985, lot 281, and again, from the collection of Franklin Chow, 8th October 2013, lot 3238; another, in the Chester Beatty Library, is illustrated by Jan Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, pl. 214; and a slightly smaller cup was sold at Christie’s London, 12th May 2009, lot 28.

Sotheby’s. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 08 oct. 2014, 03:00 PM