A finely carved 'Scholars' rhinoceros horn libation cup, Ming dynasty, early 17th century 

Lot 4165. A finely carved 'Scholars' rhinoceros horn libation cup, Ming dynasty, early 17th century, 7 1/2 in. (19 cm.) wide. Estimate HKD 1,500,000 - HKD 2,500,000Price realised HKD 4,220,000 © Christie's Images Ltd 2012

The flaring sides are finely carved around the exterior with two pairs of scholars in a rocky river landscape, one pair preparing to cross a bridge over a stream, the other standing on a rocky outcrop beside a cascading waterfall. The handle is formed by the trunk of a large gnarled pine tree extending into the interior of the cup, opposite a maple tree issuing from pierced rockwork. The material ranges from a rich golden brown to walnut tone, wood stand, box.

ProvenanceAcquired in London, 1982

LiteratureT. Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 207, no. 151 

ExhibitedHong Kong Museum of Art, Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth: Gems of Antiquities Collections in Hong Kong, 2002-2005 

Note: The decorative theme rendered on the present cup depicting a naturalistic landscape inhabited by scholars clearly illustrates the influence of contemporaneous paintings and the subject-matter was popularly adopted by master craftsmen for decoration on rhinoceros horn carvings. 

Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 30 May 2012, Hong Kong, HKCEC Grand Hall