A rhinoceros horn 'Peony' libation cup, Qing dynasty, 17th-18th century

Lot 644. A rhinoceros horn 'Peony' libation cup, Qing dynasty, 17th-18th century, 16 cm, 6 1/4  in. Estimate 400,000 — 500,000 HKD. Lot sold 625,000. Photo: Sotheby's

the flared sides finely carved in various levels of relief depicting leafy branches of peony and prunus curling up and around the exterior from the base of the foot to the rim, set to one end with two branches of budding magnolia forming the handle, the horn patinated to a rich dark honey tone.

Note: Carved with a delicate scene of flowering peonies, the auspiciousness of the motif is captured in the branches of prunus which represent hope, as they are the first flowers to blossom as spring approaches, and the peonies which symbolise royalty and honour. The raised details of the flowers form a pleasing contrast with the smooth surface of the vessel to draw attention to the evenness of tone.

A rhinoceros horn cup carved with branches of blossoming prunus and camellia, in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, is illustrated in Jan Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, pl. 214; another was sold at Christie’s New York, 15th September 2011, lot 1266; one carved with prunus was sold twice in these rooms, 22nd May 1985, lot 281 and again, 8th October 2013, lot 3238, from the collection of Franklin Chow; and a fourth cup was sold in these rooms, 8th October 2014, lot 3790. 

Sotheby's. Chinese Art, Hong Kong, 01 Jun 2017