A pair of metal-lined zitan wine cups

17th century

Each cup with rounded side and flaring rim is carved with a bamboo-shaped handle and supported on a short foot with a recessed base. The interior is lined with metal. The wood is of very dark brown colour.

8.7 cm wide



Formerly in the collection of Jan Habbema, acquired in Indonesia prior to 1936, thence by descent in the family.

Jan Habbema formed a vast collection of Chinese art whilst stationed as a high official in Bojonegoro, Indonesia, until 1936.

This pair of cups is a fine example of simplicity in shape with the subtle handle in the form of a bamboo twig. Bamboo, zhu, symbolizes moral qualities or virtues like endurance, strength, righteousness, humility and flexibility. Traditionally, these are the ideal virtues of the literati.

Zitan (purple sandalwood) has always been a relatively rare wood considered most precious by the traditional scholar. It is the densest and slowest growing of hardwoods used for scholar’s articles.

Wine cups of this shape can also be found in Blanc de Chine, see No. 40 in this catalogue. Other zitan and huanghuali wine cups dating from the same period but carved in different forms are illustrated by Marcus Flacks.

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