An Imperial gilt-bronze inkstone
Ming Dynasty, early 15th century
L. 19.5 cm
W. 1,578 g
Provenance: A Japanese private collection
The bronze inkstone is of tapered rectangular form with rounded corners and decorated with dense swirling ruyi-shaped cloud patterns in high relief framing a smooth sunken palette and an ovoid-shaped water well. The borders of the clouds form a shallow footrim flanking a flat base. The surface of the inkstone is covered in a thick layer of gilding with natural wear to the interior of the palette and water wells, revealing a thin layer of rose-gold and the natural bronze colour of the inkstone.
The cloud design is strongly reminiscent of lacquer examples of the early 15th century. See for example an early 15th century dragon box and cover with a similar voluptuous ruyi-shaped outlined cloud design in the Palace Museum collection, dated to the Yongle reign with a Xuande mark is published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum Volume 45: Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties 故宮博物院藏文物珍品全集45：元明漆器, Hong Kong, 2006, pp. 68-69, Catalogue No. 47.
Ming Dynasty Imperial inkstones are very rare indeed and no comparable example can be found in the historic court collection in Beijing and Taipei.