Title:Hand ExerciserArtist:Artist UnknownDate:Ch'ing dynastyCreation Place:Asia, ChinaCredit Line:Gift of Ruth and Bruce DaytonAccession Number:95.96a,b
The Chinese brush is an extremely sensitive writing instrument. To master it requires years of practice, great finger dexterity, and a steady hand. To gain muscle tone and flexibility, scholars often used hand exercisers, holding them in their palms. Carved with an overall pattern of double-gourd vines and polished to a mellow finish, the objects here reflect classic scholarly taste. The intellectual nature of Chinese ink painting and the difficulty of its execution meant that artists often were middle-aged before they were accomplished and elderly by the time they were famous. Thus, many of the finest literati paintings date from an artist's later years. Keeping fingers nimble and hands steady in old age required constant exercise and conditioning.