A rhinoceros horn 'Chilong and Lingzhi' libation cup, 17th century

Lot 3698. A rhinoceros horn 'Chilong and Lingzhi' libation cup, 17th century, 14.7 cm, 5¾ in. Estimate 400,000 — 600,000. Lot sold 2,000,000 HKD. Photo: Sotheby's.

the flared sides carved in relief on the exterior with a sinuous long-horned chilong, grasping a sprig of lingzhiin its mouth and clambering amongst stems issuing further lingzhi and leafy bamboo, the double handle formed from intertwined bamboo and a stem issuing further clusters of lingzhi around the rim, the interior skillfully rendered with angled contours to suggest a lingzhi, the horn of a honey-brown tone with lighter striations.

ProvenanceSotheby’s London, 15th June 1979, lot 128.

NoteExpertly carved with sinuous chilong among lingzhi and bamboo stalks, this cup is notable for its attractive light-brown colouration which resembles the colour of honey. Rhinoceros horn of this colour was highly sought after by Ming and Qing connoisseurs and Jan Chapman in The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, p. 60, notes that ‘carvings in the honey tones are almost invariably associated with the best quality carving’. 

A cup carved with a similar motif, in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, is illustrated in Jan Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, pls 205 and 206, together with one in the collection of Gerard Levy, pl. 204; three were sold in our New York rooms, the first from the collection of Annie R. Bird, 7th/8th April 1988, lot 343, the second, 12th October 1987, lot 257, and the third, of slightly larger size, 21st September 2006, lot 1; another cup was sold in these rooms, 29th November 1978, lot 394; and a further example was sold in our Los Angeles rooms, 2nd November 1978, lot 1391. See also a slightly larger libation cup sold in our New York rooms, 10th/11th April 1986, lot 295, and again in these rooms, 7th October 2006, lot 911; and two others offered in this sale, lots 3695 and 3702

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, Hong Kong, 03 Oct 2017