• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2610

    Important Chinese Rhinoceros Horn Carvings from the Songzhutang Collection

    27 May 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1709

    AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE AND SUPERBLY CARVED RHINOCEROS HORN 'ORCHID PAVILION' LIBATION CUP

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE AND SUPERBLY CARVED RHINOCEROS HORN 'ORCHID PAVILION' LIBATION CUP
    SIGNED FANG HONGZHAI, MING DYNASTY, 17TH CENTURY

    The sides crisply carved in high relief with scenes from 'Preface to the Scholarly Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion', detailed with scholars and attendants in a mountainous river retreat, including Wang Xizhi depicted inside a pavilion writing the famous Preface, two scholars conversing beneath bamboo trees and with one figure from each of the two groups of attendants floating cups of wine in a swirling river, with a brief inscription 'mao lin xiu zhu qu shui liu, 'lush woods, slender bamboo and a winding stream' and square carver's seal, Fang, carved on one rock face, all interspersed with trees, including a large gnarled tree trunks forming the handle at one side, the material of a rich reddish-brown colour
    8 in. (20.3 cm.) across, wood stand, box
    Weight: 19.9 oz. (563 gm.)


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Previously sold at Sotheby's New York, 14 February, 1985, lot 944.

    The seal on the current cup is that of Fang Hongzhai, recorded in Zhongguo Meishujia Renming Cidian, Shanghai, 1985, p.43, as a native of Hebei, which is unusual as most carvers were from south of Yangzi River, such as Bao Tiancheng from Suzhou, Li Wenfu, Pu Zhong, Zhou Wenshu from Nanjing, and You Zhisheng from Wuxi. Fang was active during the Ming Dynasty and later became a monk. He specialized in very fine rhinoceros horn and agate figural carvings. Only one other signed rhinoceros horn carving signed by Fang Hongzhai appears to have been published, the cup from the collection of the late Dr. Ip Yee collection, illustrated by J. Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, pl. no.288.

    The exquisitely rendered details on the cup illustrate a scene as described in the 'Preface to the Scholarly Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion' written by the great calligrapher and poet, Wang Xizhi (AD 307-365). The author invited a group of scholars to a gathering by the Orchid Pavilion in Shanyin, Zhejiang in the year 353. During the gathering they played a game in which servants would float cups of wine on the river to the scholars waiting downstream. In the time the cups took to reach the scholars, they had to try to compose a poem and catch the cups as they passed by.

    The theme is rarely depicted on rhinoceros horn carvings due to its complexity, elaborate scenery and the large number of figures involved. The spectacular size of this horn enabled the carver to skillfully recreate the scene in magnificent detail.

    Special Notice

    Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory, tortoiseshell and crocodile. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.


    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that this lot was previously sold at Christie's New York, 3 December 1992, lot 35 and not at Sotheby's New York as stated in the catalogue notes.


    Literature

    T. Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 192, no.139
    Art and Collection, 2001, no.105
    World Journal, New York, 30 March 2003, p.23


    Exhibited

    Hong Kong Museum of Art, Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth: Gems of Antiquities Collection in Hong Kong, 2002-2005