Rhinoceros horn cup

Carved rhinoceros horn cups are mentioned in Chinese literature as early as the Zhou Dynasty (c. 1050 – 256 BC). However, the oldest surviving examples date from the Tang dynasty (618-907). By then, rhinos had disappeared from China and their horns had become an imported luxury product like sandalwood or camphor. Sought after because of the way they were said to enhance the scent of wine, they were often used as a present at Court. From the 16th century onwards, many intricately shaped rhinoceros horn cups were produced. The one offered to the Cernuschi Museum takes the shape of a lotus leaf, surrounded by multiple plants. The stems of the leaf and a lotus flower, a stalk of millet and the branches bearing plum blossoms form the openwork foot of the cup.


Cup in the shape of a lotus leaf supported by long stems of lotus, millet and a branch of flowering plum tree.
Qing Dynasty. 18th century.
Rhinoceros horn.
H. 20 cm.

Donation from the Society of Friends of the Cernuschi Museum 2023


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