A fine and rare carved rhinoceros horn libation cup. 17th-18th Century. photo Bonhams

Superbly carved in the form of an archaic bronze wine cup (jue), carved from one piece supported on three flared feet carved as the tongue and mask of mythical beasts setting off the flared body finely rendered in low relief with two body bands of decoration, the lower carved in sections with double-headed chilong, the upper with a fabulous split-tailed mythical bird, the bands heightened by a vertical flange at the pouring end and a dynamic beast and bird-form handle at the other under a zoomorphic doubled-banded crest, the horn a honey-amber color extending to rich brown at the flared feet.; 5 1/4in (13.3cm) high - Sold for $386,000

Footnote: Libation cups of jue form and with this quality of carving are exceedlingly rare. See Fok, Thomas. Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China. Hong Kong: Tai Yip, 1999, no. 8 dated to the late 17th century, and no. 36 in the collection of the Harvard University Art Museum, dated 18th century. See also one in the Qing court collection (no. 124) dated to the late Ming Period, vol. 44 of Gugong Bowuguancang wenwu chenping chuanji, Beijing, Commercial Press, 2002.


A fine and tall rhinoceros horn libation cup. 17th-18th Century. photo Bonhams

Fashioned as an elegant lotus frond supported by a ribbon-tied cluster of graceful stems growing radiating blossoms and secondary leaves, the horn a deep honey ocher color, supported by a colored ivory two-part stand carved as a network of clouds and crashing waves; 6 3/4in (7.1cm) high - Sold for $302,000

Footnote: See a similar cup with the addition of a chi-dragon design in the Arthur Sackler collection and another from the same collection with the stem in an up-turned position, both published in Fok, op.cit, no. 92 and 97, both dated 17th century.


A tall rhinoceros horn libation cup. 18th-Early 19th Century. photo Bonhams

Carved as a magnificent mallow flower rising from a long stem supporting twisted leaves and blossoms in various stages of opening, the crowning five petaled blossom enclosing a gracefully turned stamen, the horn a warm honey-amber color throughout; 8 1/4in (20.9cm) high - Sold for $278,000

Footnote: This is part of a powerful group of vessels carved to utilize the stems of the elegant cup as a drinking handle. See, for example, Chapman, op.cit., page 167, illustration 210 for a cup as a lotus leaf with waterplants also carved with elegant stems now found in the National Trust, Snowshill Manor, Broadway, Worc.; Fok, op.cit., no 96, 18th century, in the collection of Franklin Chow.


A rare rhinoceros horn tripod libation cup. Six-character Wanli Mark, 16th-17th Century. photo Bonhams

In the form of an archaic bronze ding, superbly carved with a band of zoomorphic chi-dragons on a leiwen ground over which bound lively horned split-tailed dragons clambering to either side of extended u-shaped handles rising from a delicate key-fret border, another serpent poised on the interior of the cup, a six character Wanli mark carved under the rim, the vessel supported by the trunks of three elephant-mask feet. 3 3/8in (8.6cm) high; Sold for $266,000

Footnote: Rhinoceros horn libation cups of this early period and form are very rare. One of the most famous examples is formerly in the George and Mary Bloch collection, published in Fok, Thomas. Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, 1999, no. 49; another in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, carved by Hu Sisheng, published in Chapman, Jan. The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, 1999, no. 42.


A rhinoceros horn libation cup. 17th-18th Century. photo Bonhams

Fashioned as a magnolia blossom, the radiating branches forming the base of the cup and supporting blossoms in various stages of bloom, the pale honey colored horn with ocher highlights; 2 1/2in (6cm) high. Sold for $73,200

Footnote: A slightly larger example bearing the same decoration can be found in the Qing Court collection, Beijing, published in Gugong Bowuyuan cang wenwu chenpin quanji (The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum), Vol 44, Zhu mu ya jiao diao ke (Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings), no. 112.

Bonhams. Fine Asian Works of Art, 13 Dec 2010. 220 San Bruno Avenue, San Francisco www.bonhams.com