An exceptionally rare rhinoceros horn 'boys and goat' libation cup 17th/18th century
Lot 48 Y
An exceptionally rare rhinoceros horn 'boys and goat' libation cup
17th/18th century
Sold for HK$ 3,700,000 (US$ 471,618) inc. premium

Lot Details
An exceptionally rare rhinoceros horn 'boys and goat' libation cup 17th/18th century
An exceptionally rare rhinoceros horn 'boys and goat' libation cup
17th/18th century
Exquisitely carved as a naturalistic large lotus leaf flaring towards the rim to form a deep vessel, the exterior further carved with smaller leafy branches of lotus bud and lotus leaves, all borne on long stems grasped by two men with one men sitting on a recumbent goat and the other accompanied by a boy, the horn of an attractive rich honey tone darkening to a warm dark brown tone towards the bottom. 17.5cm (7in) wide

Footnotes

  • 十七/十八世紀 犀角雕童子騎羊圖杯

    Provenance:
    P.D. Krolik, prior to February 1970 on loan to the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery
    Sotheby's London, 24 February 1970, lot 70
    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.74-75, pl.41

    來源:
    P.D.Krolik收藏,於1970年二月之前曾借展於萊斯特博物館和藝術畫廊
    倫敦蘇富比,1970年2月24日,拍品編號70
    重要歐洲私人收藏,後由家族繼承

    出版及著錄:
    J.Chapman,《中國犀角雕刻藝術》,倫敦,1999年,頁74-75,圖41

    The present cup is exceptionally rare in belonging to a very small group termed 'caryatid cups' in rhinoceros horn libation cups in which the cup is held aloft by a human or animal figure. According to J.Chapman, this very small group numbers only four known libation cups, including the present lot; see J.Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, pp.74-75, pl.41. Of the other three known examples, two are illustrated by J.Chapman, ibid., pp.73-74, pls.39-40, the first from the Marcel Lorber collection, in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and the second in the Van Veen collection, Holland.

    This outstanding work of art would have required a complex and challenging craftsmanship, demonstrated in the master carver subtly linking the stem of the lowest part of the lotus leaf to the back of the man's head in order to provide strength and support, while ingeniously arranging his right hand to grasp the narrow stem of the leaf so that the linkage would not appear to be noticeable. The naturalistic carvings of the lotus leaves and figures in various levels of relief further display the technical virtuosity of the carver, conveying a sense of sophistication and liveliness, achieving what could be described as a masterpiece of rhinoceros horn carving.

    The word lotus is a pun for 'continuous' (lian 連) and the boy is a symbol for a wish for a son; together, they represent the blessing of continuously giving birth to distinguished sons (liansheng guizi 連生貴子). Moreover, the goat represents the spirit or birth of light and life as a homophone of yang 陽 at the same time is also a symbol of filial piety.

    此作品由亞洲犀角雕成。杯身以一大片蓮葉為杯的主體,杯身浮雕飾以蓮花和細葉,下部分以透雕手法雕成,蓮葉莖分別由兩個人物手持,其中一個人物騎著屈膝小羊,另一人物旁邊飾一童子,姿態不一,活潑生動。此犀角色澤光潤細膩,雕工精細,造型優美。要雕成此杯所需工藝非常繁複且極具難度,匠工巧妙地把蓮葉最底下的葉莖和其中一人物的頭後部連接起來,以提供足夠的力度來支撐和平衡整件作品,同時又機巧地安排該人物的右手抓住另一葉莖,整體呈現自然,使得連接的部分不那麼顯而易見,匠工嫻熟高超的技藝可見一斑。此外,此杯以浮雕及透雕工藝雕畫出的蓮葉葉脈細緻,人物栩栩如生,是犀角工匠高手的傑作。

    類似於本作品的犀角杯非常罕見,屬於為數極少的一組被稱為「人像柱杯」的犀角杯,杯身通常以飾在下部分的人物或動物高舉。根據Jan Chapman的說法,此類犀角杯已知的傳世品只有四件,包括本拍品,見Jan Chapman著,《中國犀角雕刻藝術》,倫敦,1999年,頁74-75,圖41;其餘三件中有兩件也著錄在同書中,見頁73-74,圖39-40,一件為Marcel Lorber舊藏,現藏於耶路撒冷以色列博物館;另一件為荷蘭Van Veen收藏。

    此杯亦富含吉祥寓意。蓮與連同音,因此童子持蓮有「連生貴子」、「多子多孫」的寓意。羊又與陽字諧音,所以羊被賦予光明、吉祥等寓意。此外,小羊有屈膝求乳的形態,被儒家認為是一種至親至孝的象徵。
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