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The mortar is carved to the exterior of its upper section with dragons on a ground of fire and cloud scrolls, a raised central band encircles the waist. The lower section is embellished with phoenix, plants and animals. The upper and bottom rim are decorated with a circle of lotus petals, which are stereoscopic. The whole piece is with beautiful patina.
Height: 9.5 cm
A number of ivory mortars of this distinctive shape and design are known, which suggest a similar 17th century date for this piece. Please see the references below,
 Chinese Ivories from the Shang to the Qing, London, 1984, pp. 160-161, figs. 200-202.
 A compared carved ivory mortar: Christie's sale, London, 17 May 2013, Sale 8833 Lot 1496.
 A compared carved ivory mortar: Sotheby's sale, Paris, 12 June 2013, Art d'Asie, Lot 67.
The mortar is in inverted trapezoidal cylindrical shape. Under the lotus petals of the upper section depicts ferocious dragons, dynamic and strong. This is a common symbole of imperial authority. A raised central band of uniform and symmetrical patterns encircles the waist. The lower section depicts the « world » by a combination of various plants and animals. This dragons in the upper part and the world in the lower part image represents that the imperial power is the greatest and it reigns over the world of everything else.
This art work was made regardless of materials and expense. Only the imperial court might have that wealth and time to create an art work like this. My guess is that the mortar was used for grounding rouge powder for court lady. This very rare Chinese ivory mortar is full of historical as well as academic value. It could help us understand the luxurious lifestyle of Ming dynasty imperial court.