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Ink stand, porcelain painted in underglaze cobalt blue; China, Ming dynasty, early 15th century. Height: 6.9 cm, Diameter: 16 cm. FE.22-1983. Victoria & Albert Museum © V&A Images

Ink and water pot of porcelain, decorated with underglaze cobalt blue. Round vessel in drum form, with two raised ribs and four unglazed animal masks round the outside. In the top surface are six round holes, round the edge. Five of them lead to small, circular cavity containers for solid ink sticks. The sixth lets right through into the hollow interior, which would have been filled with water; the owner would have dipped his brush in here to moisten it, and then mixed solid ink form one of the other five containers. On the flat top of the vessel is a well-painted scene of a scholar on horseback in a windy spring landscape, accompanied by his servant. Round the sides at top and bottom, are two rows of blue dots within parallel lines, simulated nailheads on a drum. In the central band is a lotus scroll. The flat base, and the low, square footring, are unglazed. On the base are two paper stickers recording the vessel's history of the exhibition in England: "Oriental Ceramic Society Exhibition Ming Blue & White 1946 no. 52" and "Oriental Ceramic Society 1954 exhibition 121".