Crisply carved as a hibiscus flower with the furled petals forming the cup, the exterior detailed in high relief with flowers and buds entwined with the stems and star-shaped serrated leaves, all enveloping the sides and issuing from the openwork foot, the undercut handle consisting of further buds and stems, on one side with a sinuous chilong interweaving his body through the stems, the six flower petals on the interior sharply articulated and punctuated with a small stamen in the center. Interestingly, the chilong is grasping a lingzhi fungus in its mouth.
The natural shape of the horn used for the making of this fine cup lends itself particularly well to that of an open flower blossom, and the carver has transformed the lip end of his material into a complete hibiscus flower with one stamen in the well. The hibiscus is immediately recognizable by its stamens which extend far out of the flower. The carving is detailed and naturalistic, even the interior of the piece is finished to the highest level with the overlapping petals carved to display a strong three-dimensional quality. Nature was on the forefront of the carver's mind when he rendered this subject matter. Another notable aspect to the piece is the openwork stand it sits on - shaped as the stem of the plant from which leaves and buds grow. The handle is also imaginatively fashioned in the form of a stem reaching up to the top of the petals.
Shape: Libation cup
Weight: 167,8 grams
Dimensions: Length 13,7 cm
Condition: Good original and unrestored condition with some wear, two very small nicks to chilong’s tail, a microscopic hairline and several tiny nibbles. One small segment of the openwork stand is missing. It is extremely rare to find a Ming cup of this size in such an untouched and intact condition!
Provenance: United Kingdom private collection.
Literature comparison: For examples of rhinoceros horn cups with hibiscus, see one in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, published in Jan Chapman in The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, pl. 206; another, formerly owned by Tradescant the Elder and presented to the University of Oxford by Elias Ashmole, now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, included in Derek Gillman, 'A Source of Rhinoceros Horn Cups in the Late Ming Dynasty', Orientations, December 1984, p. 15, fig. 8; and a third, from the collection of Dr. Ip Yee illustrated in Dr. Ip Yee, 'Chinese Rhinoceros Horn Carvings', International Asian Antiques Fair, Hong Kong, 1982, p. 36, cat. no. 29; and another from the Murray bequest and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is illustrated in Craig Clunas, Chinese Carving, London, 1996, fig. 31, where two intertwining stems are used to form the base of the vessel.
Auction result comparison: A cup where the stalks of a lotus plant were made into a ring-base for the vessel, from the collections of Edward T. Chow and Franklin Chow, was sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8th April 2011, lot 2715. FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART. Sotheby’s, 08 OCTOBER 2013, HONG KONG, lot 3244. (for a similar hibiscus and chilong cup dated to the 16th century)
文獻參考：另一件葵花犀角杯，可參考位於都柏林的切斯特·比替圖書館館藏，載於Jan Chapman著作的《中國雕犀牛角藝術集》，倫敦，1999年，圖版206。另一件典藏於牛津的阿什莫林博物館，曾載於Derek Gillman的著作《晚明時期的犀牛角藝術》，Orientations ，1984年12月，圖號8。另一件則是葉義醫生的私人收藏，可參考他個人著作《Chinese Rhinoceros Horn Carvings》，International Asian Antiques Fair出版，香港，1982年，第36頁，編號29。另一件現藏於倫敦的維多利亞與艾伯特博物館，載於Craig Clunas著作《中國雕刻》，倫敦，1996，圖號31。
類似拍品：蘇富比《Edward T. Chow and Franklin Chow珍藏品》，香港，2011年4月8日，物品編號2715。另外還有蘇富比《中國瓷器及藝術珍品》2013年10月8日，香港，拍品3244號。