As far known there is only one other, but less elaborate, Nepalese rhino horn libation cup in the western world. This example is presently in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and was presented by the king of Nepal to King George V of Great Britain in A.D. 1911.
Therefore it is not to be excluded that the cup under review once belonged to the royal Nepalese family. This fact is emphasized by its iconography, as the king of Nepal is considered to be an incarnation of Vishnu. As well by the use of rhino horn, which is extremely rare to find in Nepalese art. Obvious both facts make the libation cup a very appropriate gift for a member of the royal family!
Interesting to note is the iconography of the second avatar, Kurma, emerging from the mouth of the tortoise, instead of standing on top of the animal, as one should expect. This iconographic derivation encounters one as well on certain Nepalese paintings with representations of the ten incarnations (dashavataras) of Vishnu.
The libation cup can be dated to the seventeenth century based on several stylistic grounds, like the crowns, worn by the various incarnations and Ganesha; and the jama worn by the Buddha incarnation of Vishnu. Personages wearing jamas can be found on seventeenth century Nepalese paintings, influenced by the Indian Rajput and Mughal painting schools.
See colour illustrations