Wrist Rest


Not on view

The wrist rests serve a practical purpose. They prevent wet ink from smudging on the hand as you write. But they also had a symbolic significance for the Ming and Ching dynasty scholars who used them. They were fashioned to embody the aesthetic of modesty and restraint that governed these scholars.

The material is costly ivory. But the piece is carved to resemble a length of bamboo, a humble material that signified the scholarly ideals of strength, integrity, and steadfastness. In the center, you see the underside of another ivory wrist rest, which reveals an intricately carved landscape. When the wrist rest, with its blank top exposed, is placed in position for use, this complex scene is literally hidden.

Wrist Rest, Ivory, China

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