- Museum number
Series: Afro-Portuguese Ivories
Series: Bini-Portuguese Ivories
Salt-cellar; made of elephant ivory in three sections. Comprised of two spherical lidded containers divided horizontally across the three sections: base (a); middle section (b) and lid (c). Base and middle section decorated with alternating pairs of standing Portuguese figures with aquiline noses and beards. Static front-facing figures dressed in jackets lined with metal plates (brigandines), jerkins, pleated skirts, decorated stockings, and feathered hats. Carry swords in left hand and spears in right. Wear beaded necklace with cross. Dynamic three-quarter view figures dressed in jackets lined with metal plates (brigandines), jerkins, pleated skirts, decorated stockings, and skull-caps. Carry swords on left side and hold circular shields in right hand. Lid surmounted by European ship with small figure in crow's nest holding megaphone. Twp pierced lugs on lower edge of lid and upper edge of mid section; one pierced lug on upper edge of base and lower edge of mid section, second lug missing.
- Production date
- 1525-1600 (circa)
Height: 29.30 centimetres (a-c)
Width: 11 centimetres (a-c)
- Curator's comments
- This salt cellar is made of ivory and shows Europeans with long hair, beards and angular noses. Objects of this type were perhaps the first known examples of 'tourist art' from Africa: luxury items made as souvenirs for foreigners.
Africans along the continent's west coast first encountered Portuguese traders in the mid-fifteenth century. This marked the beginning of regular contact and trade, and the principal interest of the Europeans at this time was the purchase of carved ivory items. Although ivory carvings were traditionally produced only for the royal court in the city of Benin, the ruling Oba (king) allowed decorated salt cellars, horns, spoons and forks to be made for European visitors.
- On display (G25/dc5)
- Exhibition history
1970-1973, London, Museum of Mankind, Divine Kingship in Africa
1991-1992 Oct-Jan, Washington DC, National Gallery of Art, Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration
1993-1997, London, Museum of Mankind, Great Benin: a West African Kingdom
1997-1998 Sep-Jan, Osaka, National Museum of Ethnology, Images of Other Cultures
1998, Feb-Apr, Tokyo, Setagaya Art Museum, Images of Other Cultures
2005 Apr-Jul, BM, Views from Africa
2007 23 Jun-16 Sep, USA, Washington DC, Freer Gallery of Art & Arthur M Sackler Gallery, Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries
2007 27 Oct-2008 3 Feb, Belgium, Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries
- Good. Lugs missing from base and middle section.
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Other BM number: Af.7398 (in error)
Previous owner/ex-collection number: 1383 (Meyrick Collection number)