- RHINOCEROS HORN
- 13.6 cm., 5 1/4 in.
the handle carved with a bridled horse with a curved back extending towards a tapered end, the reins leading down the sides and through a series of elaborate knots towards the tip surmounted by a small monkey and two bees, mounted with a movable thin brass cutting blade – sharp along the straight edge and curved on the other, tapering to a curved tip, the horn of warm amber tone with a smooth patina
Hotel Drouot, Paris, 1992.
Collection of Franklin Chow.
Craving for Carvings: Rhinoceros Horn from the Chow Collection, Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore, 2003, cat. no. FC69
Thomas Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 182.
Betel nut cutter made of rhinoceros horn are extremely rare, although two very similar examples to the present piece are recorded, one in the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass., included in Jan Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China,
London, 1999, p. 112, pl. 107, and the other in the Fogg Museum, Boston, published in Soame Jenyns, 'The Chinese Rhinoceros and Chinese Carvings in Rhinoceros Horn, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society,
n.d., n.p., both with the handle in the form of a horse and with a seated monkey as finial. Compare another related cutter, in the collection of Dr. Ip Yee, published in Dr. Ip Yee, 'Chinese Rhinoceros Horn Carvings', International Asian Antiques Fair,
Hong Kong, 1982, p. 39, pl. 35, with the handle in the shape of a mythical animal and its cub as a finial; and a third piece included in Thomas Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China,
Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 183, modelled as a mother lion lying on her back with six cubs climbing on the handle, from the collection of Mrs. Angela Chua.
Cutters were used to open the coating of the nut of the areca palm and then to cut the nut into suitable size pieces. One of the pieces would then be wrapped around with a betel leaf which had been smeared with lime. Chewing this bundle has a narcotic effect and is known to have been especially popular amongst the upper classes in Southern China.