Lot 299. A rare black and white jade 'rhinoceros' plaque, Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Diameter 2 7/8  in., 7.3 cmEstimate 20,000 — 30,000 GBPLot sold 75,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's.

the circular plaque well carved and reticulated with a 'rhinoceros' with its head turned to gaze at the moon, its young gazing in turn at the parent, all amidst lingzhi and berry trees, the flat rim on the underside further carved with cloud scrolls, wood stand (2).

Provenance: Collection of Robert von Hirsch, prior to 1977, thence by descent.

Note: The carver has cleverly incorporated the white color of the jade leaves and berries, with the whitest patch used to accentuate the moon and the clouds, while skillfully utilizing the grayish-black half of the stone to depict the two rhinoceros. 

Jade carvings depicting the motif 'rhinoceros communicating with the sky' is rare, and it is a design more commonly seen on Song Ceramics.  The motif recalls an old legend of the rhinoceros gazing at the moon while the peculiar structure within its horn is formed.

No other jade examples with this motif appear to have been published. However, see a related openwork plaque, dated to the early Ming period, depicting a phoenix with a 'sun' and clouds illustrated in James C. Y. Watt, Chinese Jades from Han to Ch'ing, New York Asia Society, 1980, no. 178; and another plaque with a hare and moon with lingzhi in the British Museum, published in Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, London, 1995, no. 25:11.

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, London, 17-18 march 2015