Lot 3785. A rhinoceros horn 'pine cluster' libation cup, Qing dynasty, 17th-18th century; 15 cm., 5 7/8 in. Estimate 500,000 — 800,000 HKD. Lot Sold 687,500 HKD. Photo: Sotheby’s.
the tapered horn carved in the form of a gnarled tree trunk, the exterior carved in high relief with knots and twigs issuing clusters of pine blossoms, one end of the horn set with an openwork handle formed by a gnarled branch intertwining with twigs bearing clusters of pine blossoms and extending onto the interior of the cup, the horn patinated to a dark brown colour, wood stand.
Note: Pine trees were a favoured motif amongst the literati as they symbolised unyielding character. Further examples of rhinoceros horn cups carved with pine trees include one from the collections of Edward T. Chow and Franklin Chow, sold in these rooms, 8th April 2011, lot 2724; another, of slightly larger size, in the Chester Beatty Library, illustrated in Jan Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, pl. 229; and a slightly smaller cup, from the estate of Nil Nessim, sold in our New York rooms, 27th February 1981, lot 320.
The style of carving of this piece reveals the close communication between craftsmen of various media. The tight oval rendering of the bark on the tree trunks and circular clusters of pine needles are reminiscent of similarly decorated jade vessels; for example see a jade brushpot illustrated by Robert Kleiner, Chinese Jades from the Collection of Alan and Simone Hartman, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 111.