A very fine rhinoceros horn 'peony and mantis' libation cup, 17th-18th century

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Lot 280. A very fine rhinoceros horn 'peony and mantis' libation cup, 17th-18th century; 15.3cm (6in) long. Estimate £ 20,000 - 30,000 (€ 23,000 - 34,000)© Bonhams 2001-2018

Exquisitely carved as an open magnolia blossom with overlapping petals, a naturalistic praying mantis to the well, the handle formed as smooth branches issuing 'insect-eaten' leaves and a further meticulously carved pair of peony blossoms forming the base of the vessel, the horn of warm brownish-honey tone. 

Provenance: an English private collection, and thence by descent.

NoteThe carving of the present lot is exquisite and detailed, with elegant spreading veins and curling raised leaf edges on the interior, contrasting with the crisp peony petals on the exterior and the humorous charming insect straddling two leaf tips, whose enjoyment of his environment is further hinted by the nibbled holes scattered on the leaves.

J.Chapman illustrates a detail of a cup from the Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, Munich, ref.VIII.118, carved as a leaf with two praying mantis on the front and two more on the back: see The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, p.184, no.245. Another libation cup similarly carved as a peony but with a butterfly and bee is illustrated in Ming and Qing Chinese Art from the C.P.Lin Collection, Hong Kong, 2014, p.290, no.174. Compare also a cup carved as a leaf embellished with a similar insect, 17th century, illustrated by T.Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, no.118, and two further rhinoceros horn libation cups with related treatment of the floral carving, 17th/18th century, illustrated ibid., nos.85 and 89.

A similar rhinoceros horn libation cup, 18th century, was sold at Bonhams London, 14 May 2015, lot 248.

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A finely carved 'floral' rhinoceros horn libation cup, 18th century; 14cm (5 1/2in) long. Sold for £92,500 (€104,673) at Bonhams London, 14 May 2015, lot 248Photo: Bonhams.

Cf. my post: Seven rhinoceros horn libation cups, 17th to 19th century, at Bonhams London, 14 May 2015

 

A rhinoceros horn 'rocky cliff' libation cup, 17th century

Lot 281. A rhinoceros horn 'rocky cliff' libation cup, 17th century; 10.6cm (4 1/2in) long. Estimate £ 20,000 - 30,000 (€ 23,000 - 34,000)© Bonhams 2001-2018

Carved as a section of a rocky cliff scattered with bamboo stalks and narcissus flowers borne on craggy rockwork, the handle formed with a section of rocky outcrop and a gnarled tree branch issuing prunus flowers, extending to the interior, the horn of an honey-amber tone. 

NoteThe present libation cup is solely carved in relief with a mountainous landscape scene devoted to the craggy overhanging cliffs, prunus, bamboo, and orchids, invoking the idealistic nature retreat which the literati would aspire to retire to. This design is more unusual than those also decorated with sages and attendants.

Similar treatment of the carving of the plum blossoms can be found on another rhinoceros horn libation cup, 17th century, illustrated by T.Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, p.163, no.112. A related libation cup carved as a rocky cliff, but with chrysanthemums, is illustrated by J.Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, p.163, no.201.

A rhinoceros horn archaistic libation cup, 17th-18th century

Lot 282. A rhinoceros horn archaistic libation cup, 17th-18th century; 14.6cm (5 3/4in) long. Estimate £ 20,000 - 30,000 (€ 23,000 - 34,000)© Bonhams 2001-2018

Carved from a horn of an attractive dark-chocolate tone and raised on a gently spread foot, the tapering body decorated in relief to each side with an archaistic taotie mask reserved on leiwen ground, separated by notched flanges, the handle formed with two chilong clambering and biting the flared rim encircled by a key-fret band opposite to the spout.

Provenance: an important European private collection 

Note: The present libation cup is finely carved with taotie masks inspired by those adorning archaic bronzes; similarly its form with an elongated spout was probably inspired by the jue wine vessel. Such archaistic decoration harked back not only to the form and decoration but to the idealised morals of early China, whilst allowing the contemporary carver to transform and reinterpret the form and decoration.

Compare with a related rhinoceros horn libation cup with archaistic taotie decoration against a key-fret diaper, with clambering chilong in the Staatliches Museum fur Volkerkunde, Munich, illustrated by J.Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, p.152, pl.184; see also another similar rhinoceros cup in the Chester Beatty Library, illustrated in ibid., p.247, pl.361. 

See also a related rhinoceros horn cup, 17th-18th century, which was sold in our Hong Kong Rooms, 30 May 2017, lot 137.

115837867

A rare archaistic rhinoceros horn libation cup, Ru yu two-character mark, 17th-18th century, 14.9cm (5 7/8in) wide. Sold for HK$ 937,500 (€ 99,595) at Bonhams Hong Kong, 30 May 2017, lot 137. © Bonhams 2001-2018

Cf. my post: An important European private collection of rhinoceros horn objects at Bonhams Hong Kong, 30 may 2017

A rare and finely carved rhinoceros horn vessel, 17th century, 'Xiao Yu' two-character seal mark

A rare and finely carved rhinoceros horn vessel, 17th century, 'Xiao Yu' two-character seal mark

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Lot 283. A rare and finely carved rhinoceros horn vessel, 17th century, 'Xiao Yu' two-character seal mark; 12.1cm (4 3/4in) high. Estimate £ 30,000 - 50,000 (€ 34,000 - 57,000). © Bonhams 2001-2018

Deftly carved around the exterior of the body with archaistic taotie masks, interspersed between bands of C-scrolls, surmounted by three sinuous chilong with long bifurcated tails in high relief clambering up to the rim, one crawling through the handle decorated with archaistic motifs on a leiwen ground, the foot encircled with quatrefoil beads joined by a circular band, the horn of light caramel tone.

Provenance: Maurice (1853-1922) and Marguerite Sulzbach (1863-1945), and thence by descent.

NoteThe present lot was inspired in form by archaic bronze ritual vessels, gu, but differs in having a spout and handle. It is very rare to find a rhinoceros horn libation cup of similar form. The vessel is also rare for bearing an unrecorded two-character seal mark in archaic sealscript to the base reading 'Xiao Yu' (孝玉).

A rhinoceros horn cup with related animal taotie design, late Ming dynasty, is illustrated in Ming and Qing Chinese Arts from the C.P.Lin Collection, Hong Kong, 2014, pp.282-283, no.167.

Compare with a related rhinoceros horn libation cup, 17th/18th century, which was sold at Bonhams London, 11 November 2010, lot 471.

A rare archaistic rhinoceros horn libation cup. 17th-18th century; 6cm (2¼in) high. Sold for £ 85,200 (€ 96,620) at Bonhams London, 11 November 2010, lot 471

A rare archaistic rhinoceros horn libation cup. 17th-18th century; 6cm (2¼in) high. Sold for £ 85,200 (€ 96,620) at Bonhams London, 11 November 2010, lot 471. Photo courtesy Bonhams.

Cf. my post: Two rhinoceros horn libation cups, 17th-18th century at Bonhams Hong Kong, 11 Nov 2010

A rhinoceros horn 'phoenix and magpies' libation cup, 17th century

Lot 284. A rhinoceros horn 'phoenix and magpies' libation cup, 17th century; 13.3cm (5 1/4in) long. Estimate £ 8,000 - 12,000 (€ 9,100 - 14,000). © Bonhams 2001-2018

Finely carved around the exterior with pairs of phoenix beneath the sun, perched on rockwork forming the base of the vessel, two mandarin ducks touch beaks in a pond while pairs of sparrows and magpies fly or perch on branches of pine, amidst a landscape with bamboo and prunus, the horn of rich caramel-brown tone graduating to a dark brown towards the base. 

Provenance: Maurice (1853-1922) and Marguerite Sulzbach (1863-1945), and thence by descent.

Note: Pairs of birds represent the auspicious wishes for fertility as well as for happiness in marriage, which is the particular symbolism of the pair of mandarin ducks. Related rhinoceros horn libation cups carved with cranes and phoenix in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, are illustrated by J.Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, p.187.

A similar rhinoceros horn 'auspicious birds' libation cup, 17th/18th century, was sold at Bonhams London, 11 May 2017, lot 310.

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A rhinoceros horn 'auspicious birds' libation cup, 17th-18th century, 15.5 (6 1/8in) longSold for £ 60,000 (€ 68,042) at Bonhams London, 11 May 2017, lot 310. Photo: Bonhams

Cf. my post: A rhinoceros horn 'auspicious birds' libation cup, 17th-18th century

A large archaistic rhinoceros horn 'nine dragon' libation cup, 17th century

Lot 285. A large archaistic rhinoceros horn 'nine dragon' libation cup, 17th century; 22.9cm (7 1/2in) long. Estimate £ 20,000 - 30,000 (€ 23,000 - 34,000). © Bonhams 2001-2018

Expertly carved around the exterior with a band of archaistic taotie mask patterns interrupted by several clambering chilong with bifurcated tails, the openwork strap handle flanked by further chilong and with three more chilong crawling along the rim, the mouth and foot rims with key-fret bands, the horn of a dark chocolate brown tone. 

Provenance: Maurice (1853-1922) and Marguerite Sulzbach (1863-1945), and thence by descent

Note: For a related archaistic rhinoceros horn libation cup with taotie and several chi-dragons, late Ming dynasty, see Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings: The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 2002, p.151, no.133. Another closely related rhinoceros horn libation cup with similar design of dragons and taotiemasks, 17th century, is illustrated by T.Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, p.88, no.41. 

Compare with a similar archaistic rhinoceros horn libation cup, 17th century, which was sold at Bonhams Hong Kong, 26 May 2014, lot 122.

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A rare archaistic rhinoceros horn incised libation cup 17th century; 16.8cm wide. Sold for HK$ 1,060,000 (€ 112,609) at Bonhams Hong Kong, 26 May 2014, lot 122.  © Bonhams 2001-2018

Cf. my post: A rare archaistic rhinoceros horn incised libation cup, 17th century

A rhinoceros horn archaistic 'nine-dragon' libation cup, 17th-18th century

A rhinoceros horn archaistic 'nine-dragon' libation cup, 17th-18th century

Lot 286. A rhinoceros horn archaistic 'nine-dragon' libation cup, 17th-18th century; 14.8cm (5 3/4in) long. Estimate £ 25,000 - 40,000 (€ 28,000 - 45,000). © Bonhams 2001-2018

Crisply carved to the exterior with confronted archaistic phoenix reserved on a dense leiwen ground, below a key-fret band encircling the rim, the openwork handle formed with a large chilong biting and clambering on the rim of the cup, with six smaller kins variously perching and crouching, the interior with two further chilong in confrontation, the short foot mounted on a silver stand similarly decorated with archaistic phoenixes.

Provenance: an important European private collection. 

Note: The present lot is decorated with a band of stylised dragons in shallow relief adopted from ancient bronzes, reflecting the 17th/18th century trend of 'evidential scholarship' (kaoju xue 考據學) not only with ancient texts, but also archaeology and inscriptions on archaic bronzes, as scholars sought an empirical approach to understanding their ancient heritage. Numerous rhinoceros horns with similar archaistic designs from the 17th/18th century are illustrated by T.Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, nos.13, 20, 25, 27. See also similar archaistic designs on rhinoceros horns illustrated by J.Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, 1999, London, p.153.

Compare with a related archaistic rhinoceros horn libation cup, 17th/18th century, which was sold at Bonhams London, 10 November 2011, lot 433.

A rare archaistic rhinoceros horn libation cup, 17th-18th century; 12.7cm (5in) wide. Sold for £ 109,250 (€ 123,894) at Bonhams London, 10 November 2011, lot 433. Photo Bonhams

A rare archaistic rhinoceros horn libation cup, 17th-18th century; 12.7cm (5in) wide. Sold for £ 109,250 (€ 123,894) at Bonhams London, 10 November 2011, lot 433. Photo Bonhams.

Cf. my post: Rhinoceros horn libation cups @ Bonhams London, 10 November 2011

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Lot 287. A large rhinoceros horn 'Red Cliff' libation cup, 17th-18th century; 17.4cm (6 7/8in) long. Estimate £ 12,000 - 15,000 (€ 14,000 - 17,000). © Bonhams 2001-2018

The horn of dark chocolate tone, crisply carved to the exterior with three sages seated on a sampan steered by an attendant along a rapid stream, in admiration of the inscription carved on the cliff reading 'Shangao Yuexiao; Shuiluo Shichu', all below cloud scrolls and amidst rocky outcrops borne with shrubs and gnarled wutong and pine trees forming the handle, the interior incised with grooves imitating rocky surfaces.

Provenance: an important European private collection.

Note: The inscription on the cliff reads: '山高月小, 水落石出', which may be translated as 'From below the mountains seem high and the moon small; when the water recedes the rocks emerge'. This line comes from Su Shi's (1037-1101) famous poem 'Ode to the Red Cliff', inspired after an excursion to this famous scenic spot. The event itself became a popular motif on rhinoceros horn libation cups of the late Ming/ early Qing dynasty. Other rhinorceros horn libation cups with the 'Red Cliff' motifs, 17th century, are illustrated by T.Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, nos.132 and 133.

A rhinoceros horn 'flowers and lotus' libation cup, 17th-18th century

Lot 288. A rhinoceros horn 'flowers and lotus' libation cup, 17th-18th century; 9.8cm (3 7/8in) long. Estimate £ 4,000 - 6,000 (€ 4,500 - 6,800). © Bonhams 2001-2018

The lotus-leaf-shaped cup incised with radiating veins to the interior, well carved in relief to the exterior with flower buds and blossom borne on leafy sprays, issued from two tree stalks forming the handle, all above rocky outcrops forming the base.  

Provenance: an important European private collection 

Note: Compare with a related rhinoceros horn 'lotus' libation cup with flowers, 17th/18th century, which was sold at Bonhams London, 11 May 2017, lot 297.

A rare rhinoceros horn 'lotus' libation cup, 17th-18th century

A rare rhinoceros horn 'lotus' libation cup, 17th-18th century; 7.6cm (3in) long. Sold for £ 18,750 (€ 21,263) at Bonhams London, 11 May 2017, lot 297. © Bonhams 2001-2018

A rhinoceros horn 'flowers' libation cup, 17th-18th century

Lot 289. A rhinoceros horn 'flowers' libation cup, 17th-18th century; 12.3cm (4 7/8in) long. Estimate £ 8,000 - 12,000 (€ 9,100 - 14,000). © Bonhams 2001-2018

Carved in the form of a magnolia flower with overlapping petals, borne on gnarled tree branches forming the circular foot ring and two entwining handles, issuing an abundance of flowers scattered around the exterior, the horn of an dark amber tone.  

Provenance: an important European private collection

Note: Compare with a similar rhinoceros horn libation cup with camellia and prunus in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, illustrated by J.Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, p.163, pl.200.

A small rhinoceros horn 'musk mallow' libation cup, 17th-18th century

Lot 290. A small rhinoceros horn 'musk mallow' libation cup, 17th-18th century6.3cm (2 1/2in) long. Estimate £ 2,000 - 3,000 (€ 2,300 - 3,400). © Bonhams 2001-2018

The dark-chocolate-toned horn carved in the form of a musk mallow flower, the overlapping floral petals radiating from a raised bud-shaped finial to the interior, the exterior carved with a folded musk mallow leaf.

Provenance: an important European private collection.

A small rhinoceros horn 'musk mallow' libation cup, 17th-18th century

Lot 291. A small rhinoceros horn 'musk mallow' libation cup, 17th-18th century6.3cm (2 1/2in) long. Estimate £ 2,000 - 3,000 (€ 2,300 - 3,400). © Bonhams 2001-2018

Carved as a blossoming musk mallow flower with five overlapping petals, borne on scrolling foliage issuing two musk mallow leaves around the exterior of the cup, the horn of an attractive honey-amber tone. 

Provenance: an important European private collection.

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Lot 292. A small rhinoceros horn 'lotus leaf' libation cup, 17th-18th century9cm (3 1/2in) longEstimate £ 2,000 - 3,000 (€ 2,300 - 3,400). © Bonhams 2001-2018

Naturalistically carved in the form of a foliate lotus leaf incised with veins, the bamboo stalk handle issuing leafy branches bearing prunus blossom, the base wrapped with a further incised leaf. 

Provenance: an important European private collection

Note: Compare with a similar 'lotus leaf' rhinoceros horn cup, 17th/18th century, which was sold at Bonhams Hong Kong, 30 May 2017, lot 129.

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A rhinoceros horn 'lotus leaf' libation cup, 17th-18th century, 10.4cm (4 1/8in) wide. Sold for HK$ 212,500 (€ 22,574) at Bonhams Hong Kong, 30 May 2017, lot 129. Photo: Bonhams.

Cf my post: An important European private collection of rhinoceros horn objects at Bonhams Hong Kong, 30 may 2017

A rhinoceros horn 'prunus' libation cup, 17th/18th century

Lot 293. A rhinoceros horn 'prunus' libation cup, 17th-18th century9cm (3 1/2in) longEstimate £ 2,000 - 3,000 (€ 2,300 - 3,400). © Bonhams 2001-2018

The cylindrical vessel modelled as a section of the tree trunk, crisply carved in high relief and openwork with gnarled tree branches issuing prunus flowers and buds, curling around the exterior and extending to the underside to form the foot, the horn of amber tone.

Provenance: an important European private collection.

Note: Compare with a rhinoceros horn libation cup of different form, but with related carvings of plum blossoms, 17th century, illustrated by T.Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, p.163, no.112.

Bonhams. FINE CHINESE ART, 17 May 2018, 10:30 BST; LONDON, NEW BOND STREET