A very fine rhinoceros horn 'Yu Qiao Geng Du' libation cup
Of conical form, superbly carved with a continuous riverscape consisting of a fisherman and a woodcutter seated beside a swiftly flowing river while a scholar studies inside a pavilion on the other side of the river, above a farmer carrying a hoe crossing a bridge, all amidst meticulously carved gnarled pine and wutong trees with the pine tree trunks forming an openwork handle on one side of the horn, the horn of a rich toffee tone. 16.5cm (6 1/2in) wide
An important European private collection, and thence by descent
Published and Illustrated:
J.Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, pp.202 and 204, pl.279
The present cup depicts a continuous landscape with a fisherman, woodcutter, farmer and scholar, representing the 'Four Noble Occupations' which comprise the Chinese four-layered traditional social structure. While this subject matter was much favoured during the Ming and Qing dynasties, also appearing in other media including paintings, porcelain and jade carvings, it is very rarely found in rhinoceros horn carving; compare, however, a related smaller rhinoceros horn libation cup, 18th century, carved with only two of the 'Four Noble Occupations', the fisherman and woodcutter, which was sold at Sotheby's London, 14 November 2000, lot 35.
The complex decoration on the present lot, employing both elaborate openwork technique as well as meticulous relief carving in various levels, is strikingly sophisticated and successfully conveys a sense of liveliness, demonstrating the virtuosity of the master carver.