An exquisitely carved rhinoceros horn libation cup. Qing dynasty, 17th-18th century. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2011
The thick irregular sides superbly carved as a tapering knotted hibiscus branches issuing from the exterior to form the handle, growing smaller branches bearing hibiscus flowers enveloping the sides of the cup and extending over to the interior upon which a swallow naturalistically carved in openwork is perched looking upwards grasping a branch that bridges the spout while a second swallow perched on the handle, peers over the side of the rim to the interior, the material of a rich reddish-walnut tone; 6 1/2 in. (16.6 cm.) wide. Estimate HK$5,000,000 - HK$7,000,000 ($650,000 - $900,000).. Price Realized HK$6,620,000 ($854,928)
Although the subject matter on the present cup is rare, a number of cups depicting other short and long-tailed birds are known as well as other examples carved with cockerels, phoenix and cranes are illustrated and discussed by Jan Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, pp. 185-187. A libation cup from the Edward T. Chow and Franklin Chow Collection depicting hawks was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8 April 2011, lot 2718. Another Zisheng-marked cup decorated with a cockerel on the side of the exterior, was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 1 November 2004, lot 951.