Rare Chinese Libation Cup, Korean Longevity Screen Highlight Asian Art Auction

This rhinoceros-horn cup from China’s K’ang Hsi period is one of only 18 known raft cups in existence and the only known to depict famed Chinese imperial diplomat Zhang Qian. It is among the many items that will be up for auction in the annual Winter Antique, Asian & Fine Art sale hosted by James D. Julia, Inc.

FAIRFIELD, Me. — Two exceptionally rare Asian art pieces are set to showcase an upcoming annual Winter Antique, Asian & Fine Art auction, running from Jan 30 to Feb 1.

According to sale host James D. Julia, Inc., the lots—a rare Chinese rhinoceros-horn libation cup and a museum-quality longevity screen—were discovered through the firm’s recently established Woburn, Ma., office.

The cup, produced during the K’ang Hsi period (1662 to 1722), comes from the collection of a Southern family estate. Carved in raft form with a hollow center, flat base and elaborate carvings, it rests on a zitan-wood stand featuring crashing waves. It depicts Zhang Qian (200 BCE to 114 BCE), the first official diplomat to travel what is now known as the “Silk Road” to gather intelligence on Central Asia to report back to the Chinese imperial court. He is accompanied by a partially nude Western female figure.

Ten hand-painted silk screens comprise this Korean Yi Dynasty palace longevity screen, one of two centerpiece items set for sale.

Although there are only 18 known raft cups in existence, this piece hold unique interest, explained Julia’s Asian Arts director and “Antiques Roadshow” alumnus James Callahan, in that it is the only known rhinoceros-horn raft cup to depict this theme.

“I have been a student, connoisseur and appraiser of fine Asian Arts for more than 40 years and have never seen anything like this,” Callahan said.

The second featured item, an 18th-century Korean Yi Dynasty–period palace longevity screen, was a gift to the consignor’s grandfather, a diplomat, at the end of Second World War. It consists of 10 hand-painted, silk-panel screens depicting the “Gardens of Longevity” in a blue and green stylized landscape with golden clouds, a red sun, a peaceful waterfall and a meandering river.

“It tells a magical story in the most fantastic way, and I have not seen better examples in any of the world’s finest museums,” said Callahan.

According to Julia, neither item has been seen previously at auction.

For more information about this auction, visit the James D. Julia, Inc. website.


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