Previously sold at Sotheby's New York, 2 February 1982, lot 944.
It was more usual for rhinoceros horn cups to have been carved with designs rather than to have been left plain with the original shape of the horn retained, as with the present cup. For several other cups of this latter type see T. Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, nos. 50, 60, and 64 (unhollowed).
This type of cup derives its name naihebei, 'helpless cup', from the fact it is unable to stand on its base and therefore must be placed upside down. If a guest was offered wine in such a cup, they had to finish the wine before they could put the cup down.
Another plain cup in the British Museum of Art acquired from the collection of Sir Hans Sloane in 1753 is illustrated by S. Jenyns, "The Chinese Rhinoceros and Chinese Carvings in Rhinoceros Horn", TOCS, vol. 29, 1954-1955, pl. 24A, fig. 1. See, also, the plain 'full-tip' cup in the Chester Beatty Library, illustrated by J. Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, p. 70. no. 37. Compare also a plain cup sold at Christie's New York, 19 September 2007, lot 4.