Lot 26. A carved 'chi dragon and clouds' rhinoceros horn libation cup, 17th century; 22cm (8 5/8in) high. Estimate HK$400,000-600,000. Sold for HK$ 1,240,000 (€ 148,160). Photo Bonhams.
Well hollowed and well preserved in its original horn shape, intricately carved on the exterior with four spirited chi dragons amid billowing clouds at the rim and lingzhi issuing from the tip, each grasping a sprig of lingzhi in its mouth.
Provenance: Li Chun-hung Collection, no.CHL24.
Published and Illustrated: T.Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, p.76, no.29
Note: It is rare to find carved rhinoceros horn of such superior quality which is extensively worked and preserved in its original form. Such a simple and succinct carving style was inspired by examples from the early Ming dynasty. Compare a related rhinoceros horn cup carving with a design of grapes and fruits, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings, Hong Kong, 2002, p.144 no.130. See also a rhinoceros horn libation cup, 17th century, carved with chi-dragon and floral blossoms, from the Shanghai Museum, illustrated by T.Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, no.87.
The lingzhi fungus is associated with the wish for longevity and the clouds can be interpreted as a pun on the word 'cloud', yun (雲), which is a homophone for fuyun (福運), 'good fortune'.
Bonham's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 2 June 2016