Lot 3784. A rhinoceros horn 'lotus and egrets' libation cup, Qing dynasty, 18th century; 16.5 cm., 6 1/2 in. Estimate 500,000 — 700,000 HKD. Lot Sold 875,000 HKD. Photo: Sotheby’s.
meticulously carved in the form of a furled lotus leaf, the undercut handle formed on one side in openwork with intertwining stems issuing lotus buds, pods and leaves enveloping the vessel, the exterior carved with several egrets in flight and perched on the undulating stems, the horn of a warm dark brown tone lightening around the rim, the interior accentuated with veins, wood stand.
Note: Carved with a charming scene of egrets amongst lotuses and reeds, a sense of naturalism has been achieved through the gently twisting leaves and different poses of the birds, which also reveal the carver’s familiarity with his subject. This cup is full of auspicious symbolism: the egret (lu), with its distinctive white feathers, is often associated with old age. When depicted with a lotus (lian) and reeds (lu), it forms the wish ‘may you pass your exams all the way’ (lulu lianke).
A related rhinoceros horn cup, in the collection of Mrs Angela Chua, is illustrated in Thomas Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 113; one carved with birds was sold in our London rooms, 13th May 1988, lot 491; another, in the Museum voor Volkenkunde, is illustrated in Jan Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, pl. 83; and a fourth was sold in our London rooms, 13th May 1988, lot 485.