Pair of wrist rests with scene of egrets in a lotus pond

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, First half nineteenth century
Medium
Ivory
Dimensions
H x W x D: 20.6 x 6.3 x 1.6 cm (8 1/8 x 2 1/2 x 5/8 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Transfer from the National Museum of Natural History, Department of Mineralogy, Smithsonian Institution
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S1992.74.1-2
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Tool and Equipment
Type

Wrist rest

Keywords
bamboo, bird, China, dragonfly, lotus, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), WWII-era provenance
Provenance

To 1975
Mr. and Mrs. Milton Turner, Bethesda, Maryland. [1]

From 1975 to 1992
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Milton Turner, Bethesda, Maryland. [2]

From 1992
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, transferred from the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC [3]

Notes:

[1] See copies of gift receipt and correspondence between Milton and Lilian Turner and the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. See “United States National Museum Accession Memorandum” time stamped January 24, 1975, copy in object file. See also Curatorial Remark 3 in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The object was transferred from the Department of Mineralogy of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. See “Custody Receipt” and “Acquisition Consideration Form”, copies in object file.

Previous Owner(s)

National Museum of Natural History, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution
Mr. and Mrs. Milton Turner

Label

This ivory wrist rest is a calligrapher's tool. When used as an aid in writing, it is placed flat  on a table with the convex surface upward. The device can be used to cover still  wet lines of calligraphy from accidental smuding by the author's wrist or sleeves as he continues to work, and in the case of writing small calligraphy, it can be used to support and steady the calligrapher's wrist. Wrist rests are also decorations for a scholar's desk, and when one is carved as delicately on the underside as this one, it is likely that it was intended more as a decorative piece than as a functional object. Rests like this were often fitted with stands and displayed vertically. 

The shape of this wrist rest imitates a section of bamboo. It was a fashionable practice to employ luxury materials such as ivory to imitate less expensive materials. The carved decoration is made up of superimposed motifs, creating a deep visual field. This scene with egrets and lotus flowers is a standard symbol in China for scholarly advancement.

Published References
  • Les Trois Reves du Mandarin. Exh. cat. Brussels. cat. 167, pp. 206-7.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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