It is one of two pieces of Tang dynasty (618-907) silver in the sale formerly owned by renowned Swedish collector Carl Kempe (1884-1967).
Made for a client of elevated stature, perhaps even for a member of the imperial court, it is emblazoned with a repoussé rhinoceros standing foursquare. Due to hunting, the rhinoceros was already extinct in northern China by Tang times but was still known in parts of southern China.
When offered for sale at Sotheby’s London in 2008 as part of a single-owner sale titled Masterpieces of Chinese Precious Metalwork, Early Gold and Silver, it had been guided at just £10,000-15,000 and sold at £168,500. It comes for sale in New York with a guide of $1m-1.5m.
Christie’s is selling property from India House, a private club that has been a fixture of downtown Manhattan since the early 20th century.
Founded in 1914 by James Farrell and Willard Straight, it was conceived as a meeting place for the interests of foreign trade, and its name paid homage to the Dutch West India Company. Farrell and Straight envisioned that New York should have “a place, maritime in spirt, purpose and atmosphere, where those interested in rebuilding a merchant marine worthy of America could meet”.
A group of 23 works will be offered across the September Asian series at both live and online sales. A highlight included in the Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sale on September 23 (estimate $30,000-50,000) is a large 17th-century silk painting of the warrior god Guandi.
The painting was formerly owned by Straight and is set within a spectacular, elaborately carved gilt-wood frame crafted in Guangzhou (Canton) around the turn of the 20th century.