A rare rock crystal ear cup, Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220)

Lot 2807. A rare rock crystal ear cup, Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220); 4 ¼ in. (10.8 cm.). Estimate HKD 200,000 - HKD 300,000 (USD 25,680 - USD 38,519)Price realised HKD 275,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.

The oval rounded cup is carved with a pair of handles to the sides. The translucent rock crystal is suffused with russet streaks, box.

Provenance: Acquired in Hong Kong, 10 May 1998.

Note: The ear cup first appeared in lacquer form during the late Spring and Autumn period (5th century BC), with rectangular handles or 'ears'. An example dated to the Warring States period (475-221 BC) was included in the Hong Kong Oriental Ceramics Society exhibition 2000 Years of Chinese Lacquer, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1993, Catalogue, no. 2. By the mid-Warring States period the 'crescent moon' shaped handles were adopted replacing the earlier form. Two such vessels dated to the Western Han dynasty are illustrated, op. cit. , nos. 3 and 4. A third exquisite lacquer example from the Tombs of the Family of the Marquis of Dai, in the Hunan Provincial Museum, dated to the Western Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 9), is illustrated by Thorp, Son of Heaven, Imperial Arts of China, Seattle, 1989, no. 69. Crescent moon ear cups continued to be made in metal as late as the Tang dynasty and glass examples are known. A jade example from the collection of Freer Gallery of Art, thought to have been excavated at Luoyang, together with a similar example from the collection of G.L. Winthrop, are dated to the Late Eastern Zhou period, but are most probably Western Han; both are illustrated by Salmony, Carved Jade of Ancient China, London, 1982, pl. LVI. A jade ear cup dated to the late Spring and Autumn Period from the Yangdetang Collection, illustrated by Teng Shu-p’ing in Collectors’ Exhibition of Archaic Chinese Jades, Taipei, 1999, pl. 215 and included in the National Palace Museum exhibition Collectors’ Exhibition of Archaic Chinese Jades, Taipei, 1999, Catalogue, pl. 215, was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 29 November 2017, lot 2779. A yellowish-green jade Han dynasty ear cup, formerly in the Cunliffe Collection and subsequently in the collection of Sir Harry and Lady Garner was included in the exhibition Chinese Jade Throughout the Ages and is illustrated in Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, 1973-1975, no. 174.

Compare this rock crystal cup to an example illustrated by Roger Chow in Sparkling Splendours: The Art of Ancient Chinese Carvings on Rock Crystal and Agate, the Taoshi Zhai Collection, Hong Kong, 2000, no. 220, p. 209.

Christie's. On The Studio Desk, Hong Kong, 27 November 2019