An inscribed rhinoceros horn tripod libation cup. Qing dynasty, 18th century. photo courtesy Sotheby's
the undecorated vessel supported on three splayed feet, the surface plain save for a two column inscription on the exterior, a two-character seal, Shang Ming, within a square on the base, the well-polished horn of chestnut tone deepening to a dark brown at the legs - height 5 in., 12.7 cm - Estimate 60,000—80,000 USD. Lot Sold 116,500 USD
NOTE: The inscription can be translated as: 'Simple and streamlined so as to obtain true beauty; Intricate artistry carries the stylistic refinement of the Shang vessel.'
The present piece is unusual for its striking unadorned body which enhances the quality and natural coloration of the horn. Compare a jue of related form but carved with two qilong on either side, published in Thomas Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 46, where Fok describes on p. 93 the time-consuming technique of creating curved legs by heating the carved legs and bending them into the desired shape before being left to dry and harden in a mold. See also examples of rhinoceros horn jue carved with archaistic decoration, such as one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings, Beijing, 2001, pl. 205;
Several rhinoceros horn cups with the seal mark Shang Ming are known. See one published in Fok, op. cit., pl. 18; a libation cup depicting the 'Hundred Boys' motif, illustrated ibid., pl. 155; and a small lotus-form libation cup sold at Christie's New York, 19th March 2008, lot 324.
Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art. 23 Mar 2010. New York www.sothebys.com