An impressive large archaistic rhinoceros horn 'Nine Dragons' libation cup, 17th century

Lot 13. An impressive large archaistic rhinoceros horn 'Nine Dragons' libation cup, 17th century, 7¼ in. (18.5 cm.) long. Estimate GBP 250,000 - GBP 350,000Price realised GBP 481,250. © Christie's Images Ltd 2011

Raised on a tall foot and carved around the exterior with a taotieband interrupted by notched flanges and reserved on a leiwenground, the openwork S-scroll handle flanked by two largechilong to the top, three smaller ones at the base and a further four around the exterior, the rim with key-fret bands and a stylised dragon in shallow relief to the interior, the horn of a warm dark brown tone.

NoteThis impressive libation cup is a fine example of the level of skill and attention to detail carvers possesed. Compare with a Ming dynasty 'nine dragons' rhinoceros horn libation cup sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 31 May 2010, lot 1804 and another in the collection of the late Dr. Ip Yee illustrated in Jan Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, p.130, no. 135. See also a cup with very similar carved monster-masks and flanges in the Durham University Oriental Museum, illustrated in ibid, p. 154, no. 188.

The depiction of nine dragons is particularly auspicious as the number nine was regarded as a perfect number by the Chinese and emblematic of heaven and the ruling emperor.

Christie'sFine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 10 May 2011, London, King Street