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A fine carved rhinoceros libation cup. Ming dynasty, 17th century

the high-polished auburn coloured horn carved in high-relief with Shoulao riding a crane set below the overhanging lip, hovering above a recumbent deer, flanked on the sides by the Eight Daoist Immortals standing on rocky outcrops, set amidst mountains and clouds, the back carved with a gnarled pine tree, the interior rim set with a bough of peaches at one end, stand. 17 cm., 6 3/4 in. Estimate 900,000—1,200,000 HKD

NOTE: A slightly larger rhinoceros horn libation cup with the same theme of the Eight Daoist Immortals in the peach garden of the Land of the Immortals, from the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, is illustrated in Jan Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, pls 279-277. See also a smaller example in the Osaka Municipal Museum, published ibid., pl. 266; and another cup illustrated in Thomas Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 82.

The branch of peaches in the interior suggests that the Eight Immortals are about to attend, or are just leaving, the peach banquet of the Queen Mother of the West.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art. 08 Apr 09. Hong Kong www.sothebys.com photo courtesy Sotheby's