Previously sold in our New York Rooms, 16 October 2001 (Catalogue dated 20 September 2001), lot 293.
The four-character mark may be read, either 'Shangyue or Yanyue family collection'.
No other example of a rhinoceros horn of this form and unusually large size appears to be published. Two smaller ewers, each of different form, and ornately carved with reticulated handles and spouts, are illustrated by J. Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, p. 103, nos. 89 and 90, where they are dated to the late Ming period and 17th century respectively. The closest comparison to the present lot appears to be the rhinoceros horn gu-form beaker vase sold in these Rooms, 5 November 1997, lot 1015, and again, 31 October 2000, lot 1013. Both the beaker vase and the present ewer are of the same size, of simple form, and carved with low-relief decoration incorporating taotie masks and other archaistic motifs. The former, however, is composed of three separately carved sections, while the present example is extremely rare in that the body of the vessel appears to be carved entirely from a single piece of horn.
The form of this ewer can also be related to jade examples of contemporary date. See, for example, the greyish-white jade ewer dated to the Ming dynasty, of broader, flattened pear form, but also with a similar handle linked to the domed cover by a loose chain, illustrated in Zhongguo Yuqi Quanji, vol. 5, 1994, no. 285.