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Crossing Cultures

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Title:
Crossing Cultures Afro-Portuguese Ivories of Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Sierra Leone
Creator:
Martinez, Eugenia S
Place of Publication:
[Gainesville, Fla.]
Publisher:
University of Florida
Publication Date:
Language:
english
Physical Description:
1 online resource (85 p.)

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Master's ( M.A.)
Degree Grantor:
University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
Art History
Art and Art History
Committee Chair:
Rovine, Victoria
Committee Members:
Ross, Elizabeth
Poynor, Robin E.
Graduation Date:
12/14/2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
African art ( jstor )
African culture ( jstor )
African history ( jstor )
Art exhibitions ( jstor )
Art museums ( jstor )
Ivory ( jstor )
Museums ( jstor )
Renaissance ( jstor )
Renaissance art ( jstor )
Saltcellars ( jstor )
Art and Art History -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre:
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
born-digital ( sobekcm )
Art History thesis, M.A.

Notes

Abstract:
The Afro-Portuguese ivories?comprised of ornately carved ivory containers for salt (called salt cellars), hunting horns (called oliphants), forks, spoons, and liturgical vessels?were commissioned from artists working on the coast of what is now the country of Sierra Leone in West Africa, by seafaring Portuguese patrons during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. They subsequently resided in some of Europe's most elite private collections where they have been valued for their fine craftsmanship, rare material, and exotic appearance, but often misattributed as Indian or Turkish. The project focuses not only on how the ivories came into existence during this early modern cross-cultural encounter, but also on how they have been understood, and misunderstood, by collectors and scholars over time. An examination of two ivory salt cellars one of which has just been made public will facilitate an understanding of how the corpus of Afro-Portuguese ivories helps broaden the study of the art of Africa to encompass art objects made specifically for the global market. Their culturally hybrid features defied (and continue to defy) categorization as either 'European' or 'African' in collections, museums, and academia. They occupy an ambiguous space that is both African and European in character and embody a nebulous cultural identity, hence the continuing complication and fascination with them and the moment in world history they represent. ( en )
General Note:
In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note:
Includes vita.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
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Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description:
This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis:
Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local:
Adviser: Rovine, Victoria.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Eugenia S Martinez.

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright Martinez, Eugenia S. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
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LD1780 2007 ( lcc )

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CHAPTER 5
CONCLUSION: DIASPORA OF OBJECTS: TRANSCULTURAL MEMORY AND MOTION

This project strives to delineate shifting contexts of display and collection of the Afro-

Portuguese ivories, and particularly those from the earliest coastal people who produced these

objects in Sierra Leone. Homi K. Bhabha states of the Circa 1492 exhibition, "[It] is an exhibit

with a double vision: the eye expanding to hold the world in one space: the eye averted, awry,

attenuated, trying to see the uniqueness of each specific cultural tradition and production. The

show is crafted from a creative tension deep within the early modem moment."1 His statement

encapsulates all that continues to be important about the Afro-Portuguese ivories in the ongoing

tension of between understanding the conditions of their original existence and their relationship

to complex and sometimes conflicting cultural identities.

By thinking of the Afro-Portuguese ivories as objects with a life cycle that is ongoing as

long as the works continue to exist and circulate, we can see that they acquire meanings and

values their original makers may never have intended or even imagined. In the examination of

the lives of the objects as they have been interpreted by scholars situated at various points in

history, layer upon layer of significance accrues onto the body of knowledge about the ivories

and becomes inscribed on the objects themselves.

By examining two salt cellars, utilitarian-tumed-decorative objects that held particular

prestigious significance for their early modem European owners, this project elucidates how they

became embodiments of a transcultural moment. Details of iconography, restoration, and

synthesis of meanings come into a different kind of focus than has been seen before. The recent

re-emergence of a salt cellar that carries so many visible marks of its rich and what must have

been varied life into the corpus of the ivories is particularly fortuitous. Even if we never know


1 Bhabha, "Double Visions," p. 236.









as a signifier for the political and economic supremacy of the Oba, referencing his ability to

access the wealth that Europeans brought as well as his use of Portuguese mercenary traders to

assist in military victories.

As Grottanelli suggests, the execution scene on the Rome salt cellar is possibly a

representation of an African ruler in the guise of a Portuguese man surrounded by symbolic

victims.8 Alternately, it could represent a living African chief wearing appropriated clothing

style of the Portuguese who were perceived, as they were in Benin, to possess worldly and

spiritual powers. Such references may well have been used to reinforce and to magnify the

chiefs own power over his African subjects. Another possible (perhaps concurrent) meaning is

that the larger figure is an actual Portuguese man-or lanqado-who holds power of justice over

the smaller African individual. However, no other historical records point to this type of political

or judicial power between Africans and Portuguese at this time and place. Regardless of the

specific reading, clearly one figure holds ultimate prestige and power of life and death over the

others.

Blier's hypothesis is that the Sierra Leone ivories, which represent early sustained

exchange between Portuguese and Africans, indicate that Africans associated the seafaring

Portuguese with the realm of the dead and with regeneration in the world of the living. She

argues that the coastal peoples of West Africa have historically constructed their beliefs about

the continuum between life and death around bodies of water, where "the color white was

associated at once with the spiritual world and the world of the dead."9 That the ivory-an

essentially white material-salt cellar depicts a man in a Portuguese hat, whether he is African,



8 Grottanelli, "Discovery of a Masterpiece," pp. 16-18.
9 Blier, "Imaging Otherness," p. 380.









Cross-Continental Aesthetic Migrations: Collaborative Efforts

Portuguese visitors began commissioning ivory carvings from African artists working in

what scholars have assumed to be pre-existing canons which the Portuguese patrons and the

aristocratic Europeans who later owned them appreciated them for their sophisticated

technicality and exotic visual appeal. What exactly these pre-existing ivory carvings made for

local use looked like is unknown since none are extant.

Among the forms that the Portuguese requested were salt cellars, oliphants, pyxes, and

eating utensils such as spoons and forks. Each of these forms was readily recognized in a

European context as a signifier of elite social and economic status that are at once decorative and

ostensibly utilitarian in function. The salt cellars with flared bases closely resemble European

lidded metal cups (Figure 16), but the porosity of the ivory and delicate projections that comprise

the decorative programs on the salt cellars preclude their practical use as containers for drinking

liquids (Figure 17). For African artists, perhaps they were little more than novel forms made to

cater to a new and lucrative market. Conversely, Grottanelli hypothesizes that the form of salt

cellars such as one at the L. Pigorini Museum in Rome (Figure 1), for example, predate the

arrival of the Portuguese, and in fact could conform to a "genuine tradition" rather than a novel

hybrid style based on their stylistic difference from the structures, material, and "general

conception" of other European salt cellars.45 If Vogel is correct in her assertion that this shape is

related to a gourd or ceramic vessel atop a cylindrical pedestal construction common in many

West African cultures, then perhaps the skilled maneuvering of ivory into complex vessels did in

fact pre-date the arrival of the Portuguese.46


45 Vinigi L. Grottanelli, "Discovery of a Masterpiece: A Sixteenth-Century Ivory Bowl from Sierra Leone," African
Arts 8 (Summer 1975): p. 23.
46 Vogel, "Introduction," inAfrica and the Renaissance, pp. 14-15.










manifested in the present. Incidentally, these non-visual, ephemeral themes converge visually in

each of these examples-African salt cellar, Italian fresco, mysterious stone figure.

Both salt cellars are useful in showing not only the first moment of cultural exchange with

Europeans in coastal Sierra Leone but also the forces of agency at work in their inceptions. Their

importance within the corpus of Afro-Portuguese ivories is evident: the Rome "executioner" salt

cellar has been recognized as one of the finest (if not the finest) example of the salt cellars, while

the New York piece is the newest and one of the most anomalous pieces for the way in which it

was restored. Its somewhat rougher manner of carving, though still skillful in its design and

execution, provides a foil to the supreme refinement of the Rome "executioner" salt cellar. The

damage done to it over time actually reveals more of its life story than if it had survived intact.









While The Age of the Marvelous exhibition of 1991 did not display any Afro-Portuguese

ivories, its theme and timing reflect an abiding interest in European visual culture at the

quincentennial landmark year (in actuality, a rather arbitrary bookmark in history upheld by the

rhetoric of Columbus's "discovery"). The exhibition, organized by the Hood Museum, traveled

to three other venues from 1991-1993.41 The show and accompanying catalogue are valuable for

their in-depth analysis of the methods of object categorization of the Kunst-, Wunder-,

Raritaetenkammern. The catalogue attempts to reflect the varied types of objects in the spirit of

Wunderkammer display aesthetics, except this time with didactics as part of the display for more

critical understanding, unlike the practices of the early private collections which sought merely

to categorize and display the objects themselves without contextual understanding.

Several other exhibitions have dealt with framing or reframing the idea of the Renaissance,

with particular focus on Portugal's effect on world exploration during the fifteenth- and

sixteenth-century Portuguese political zenith. For example, Os Descobrimentos Portugueses e a

Europa do Renascimento, a five-venue exhibition in Lisbon in 1983 was cited as a source of

inspiration for Africa and the Renaissance in Bassani and Fagg's letter in response to Barbara

Blackmun's review of their catalogue.42 However, the Portuguese exhibition was not cited in

Bassani and Fagg's catalogue. Bassani cited it in his 2000 publication, African Art andArtefacts

in European Collections 1400-1800.43 Perhaps the explanation for the confusion around this

seemingly minor point stems from the scant availability of the Portuguese exhibition catalogue



41 See Kenseth, The Age of the Marvelous.

42 Angela Delaforce, Re\ kic\ The Portuguese Discoveries, Lisbon," The Burlington Magazine 125:966 (Sept.
1983): pp. 576-579; Bassani and Fagg, "Responses to the Review ofAfrica and the Renaissance," p. 14..
43 Bassani. 1 frican Art andArtefacts, p. 308; the volume has been criticized for its many editorial errors that
"introduce an unwelcome note of uncertainty" by William Hart, Review of African Art and Artefacts in European
Collections, 1400-1800, inAfrican Arts 35(3) (Autumn 2002): 10-11, 88.









an unidentified substance. Mottled oxidized green patina point to the probable presence of

copper coverings,14 possibly added at one point in time and removed sometime later.

Rows of beads set between thin ridges give the appearance of a textured woven material.

Portuguese, and later British, records mention local production "beautiful mats of palm-leaf,"15

and the bead-row and zig-zag patterns on both of these salt cellars are potentially modeled after

these supposedly ubiquitous raffia weavings. Overall, the piece demonstrates many of the same

formal conventions, decorative elements, and sense of balance and restraint as the Rome salt

cellars. The Rome example described in detail in this chapter exceeds the New York salt not only

in size and surviving condition, but also in the consistency of finished surfaces. It is entirely

possible that our two examples plus the second Rome salt cellar come from the same or closely-

working artist or workshops.

Life and Death Envisioned in the Janus Head

As in the Rome salt cellar, the lid of the New York salt cellar is the most striking feature

with its crowning reference to disembodied heads, death, and triumph. This particular Janus-

head finial is unique in the corpus of Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories: While Janus-heads often

appear on the salt cellar lids16 (for example, Figure 30), they are always carved with the sinuous

curvilinearity of soapstone nomoli and other ivory human figures-both African and

Portuguese-depicted on all other salt cellars. Additionally, most Janus-headed saltcellars

consist of two near-identical human faces, sometimes with Portuguese helmets, sometimes with

the more typically African textured head band or coiffure. The Janus-head on this container, in


14 Hecht, "Re: grad student at UF."

15 Pacheco Pereira, Esmeraldo de Situ Orbis, translated in Christopher Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance, p. 41.

16 Bassani and Fagg record at least six salt cellars whose lids terminate with a double-faced head, Africa and the
Renaissance, p. 230.










Foy, Wilhelm. "Zur Frage der Herkunft einiger alter Jaghomer: Portugal oder Benin?"
Abhandlungen undBerichte des Konigliche Zoologischen undAnthropologisch-
Ethnographischen Museums zu Dresden 9(6) (1900-1901): 20-22.

Fyfe, Christopher. A .\lNih t History of Sierra Leone. New edition. London: Longman Group
Limited, 1979.

-. Sierra Leone Inheritance. London: Oxford University Press, 1964.

Goris, J.A. and G. Marlier, "Introduction." Albrecht Durer: Diary of his Journey to the
Netherlands, 1520-1521. Trans. from the French by Philip Troutman. Greenwich, CT.:
New York Graphic Society, 1971.

Graburn, Nelson H. H., ed. Ethnic and Tourist Arts: Cultural Expressions from the Fourth
World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

Grottanelli, Vinigi L. "Su un'antica scultura in avorio della Sierra Leone." Africa (Rome) 30(4)
(1975): 475-505.

-. "Un'avorio rinascimentale della Sierra Leone." Critica d'Arte 140 (1975): 34-36.

-. "Discovery of a Masterpiece: A Sixteenth-Century Ivory Bowl from Sierra Leone." African
Arts 8 (Summer 1975): 14-23.

Hair, P.E.H.. Africa Encountered: European Contacts and Evidence, 1450-1700. Hampshire;
Brookfield, VT: Variorum, 1997.

-. "An Ethnolinguistic Inventory of the Lower Guinea Coast before 1700." African Language
Review 7 (1968): 50-73.

-. "An Ethnolinguistic Inventory of the Lower Guinea Coast before 1700, Part II." African
Language Review 8 (1968): 225-226.

-. "The Spelling and Connotation of the Toponym Sierra Leone Since 1461." Sierra Leone
Studies 18 (January 1966): 43-58.

Hall, Stuart. "Cultural Identity and Diaspora." Diaspora and Visual Culture. Ed. Nicholas
Mirzoeff. London and New York: Routledge, 2000. 21-33.

Hart, William. Review of African Art andArtefacts in European Collections, 1400-1800 by Ezio
Bassani. African Arts 35(3) (Autumn 2002): 10-11, 88.

Hart, W. A. and Christopher Fyfe. "The Stone Sculptures of the Upper Guinea Coast." History in
Africa 20 (1993):71-87.

Hecht, Johanna. "Re: grad student at UF, inquiry about an Afro-Portuguese ivory in Incisive
Images exhib." E-mail to the author, Sept., 25, 2007.









from this period point to West Africa as the source of these particular ivory carvings.61

Ultimately, some of the African ivories themselves speak through their formal affinity with the

roughly contemporaneous steatite, wood, and clay figures, pointing to a specifically Sierra Leone

origin, as researchers in the twentieth century have revealed.62 Historians and museum

connoisseurs have struggled with locating specific possibilities of origin within West Africa.

This elusiveness of even the broadest continental attributions has direct repercussions on how we

can conceptualize the elusiveness of defining African art in general.


































61 Alan F. C. Ryder, "A Note on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories," The Journal ofAfrican History 5(3) (1964): 363.

62 John H. Atherton and Milan Kalous, "Nomoli," The Journal ofAfrican History 11(3) (1970): 303-317; Lamp,
"Ancient Wood Figures from Sierra Leone," pp. 48-59.









these objects. The focus here will be to bring a provocative new example-a heretofore

unrecorded salt cellar-into the corpus of Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories, and to fill out the

larger context of the transcultural transmission of finely carved ivory sculptures made by African

artists, exported by the Portuguese, and eventually disseminated to collections throughout the

world.

Anthropologist Arjun Appadurai proposes that "value is embodied in commodities that are

exchanged ... commodities, like persons, have social lives."19 The following chapters will follow

the social life of the highly-valued Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories. Chapter 2 addresses the

historical moment and the conditions surrounding the conception and first exchange of the

ivories from both the Portuguese perspective and the African. Because the ivories are

simultaneously and inherently from Sierra Leone, Portugal, and somewhere between cultures and

continents, it is wise to choose multiple cultural perspectives (or at least speculate about and

consider their impact) and not limit the study to an either/or, us/them approach as has been a

tendency in past research. A close reading of the population of langados, or those who "cast

themselves away"20 from Portugal to settle on mainland West Africa, brings an element that was

both Portuguese and African, hence creating new cultural identities much like the ivories

themselves. An examination of the history of African ivory (and by extension, elephants) as a

prestige material for both Africans and Europeans is followed by a summary of the only known

group of objects, soapstone, wooden, and clay figurative sculptures made roughly

contemporaneously for local ownership (Figures 11 through 13). The nomoli and pomtan, as the

figures are called by the people who live in the area today, are one of the only indigenous forms

19 Arjun Appadurai, ed., The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge, UK and New
York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 3.
20 From the Portuguese reflexive verb, se-langar: to cast, throw, launch oneself, in Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese
Ivories," p. 71, note 24.










the British euphoria following the Punitive Expedition of 1897.15 Wilhelm Foy challenged the

Benin origin theory by posing the possibility that the ivories were carved in Europe by African

sculptors.16 Curnow observes that the "authoritative tone [of early twentieth century scholarship]

helped establish the theory that the ivories of the curiosity cabinets were made in Benin, and

museum authorities and scholars subscribed to this point of view for the next forty years." 17 In

the turn-of-the-century, which coincides with the program of colonialist and industrialist

propagation, the Benin theory became the blanket attribution for the Afro-Portuguese without

regard to differences in style and form that range from obvious to subtle.

The Post-Colonial Era: New Tactics of Systemization

William Fagg, who was the head of the Department of Ethnography in the British Museum

(among other distinguished subsequent posts), published a catalogue of the Museum's large

collection of Kunstkammer ivories in 1959, entitled Afro-Portuguese Ivories. This work has

proven seminal for contemporary scholars of the subject of Afro-Portuguese ivories. He was the

first to divide the production centers into three distinct locations: Sierra Leone, the Kingdom of

Benin, and Lagos/Porto Novo area of Nigeria. One of these attributions, the Lagos/Porto Novo

area, was later discarded by Fagg and others. This short volume would prove critical in moving

toward a more focused picture of the original milieu for the Sierra Leone ivories. For those who

cannot travel to the British Museum, the 10" x 13" book conveys a larger-than-life impression of

all of the ivories that belies their diminutive scale. Problems with the tone of language he used to



15 Fagg, Afro-Portuguese Ivories, pp. xix-xx.

16 See Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories," pp. 35-36 and Fagg, Afro-Portuguese Ivories, p. xxiv for discussions
of Wilhelm Foy, "Zur Frage der Herkunft einiger alter Jaghomer: Portugal oder Benin?" Abhandlungen und
Berichte des Konigliche Zoologischen und, irmi, '.1. h-* ilir '- i''i. 'ihi, l,. Museums zu Dresden 9(6) (1900-
1901): 20-22.

1 Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories," p. 36.









focused on the migration of visual culture and the conditions of reception."17 Like Blier's call to

historians of African art, Farago's is an appeal for historians of early modern Europe to join the

interdisciplinary debates of visual cultural studies. Because the Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories

are African innovations resulting directly from the period of first direct and sustained interaction

with Europeans, they provide a means of answering both calls for re-examination at once.

Notably, the objects themselves are the most reliable and tangible record of the brief

moment just before the period of the cross-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism. At a time before

the notions of "culture," "tradition," and "authenticity" carried the overwhelmingly heavy socio-

political baggage that they do in the postmodern, post-colonial age, the Afro-Portuguese ivories

represent some of the first visual documents upon which modern scholars can base further

understanding of how the present period of widespread transcultural exchange began. 18

Because of their hybrid origin and style, these objects have until relatively recently been

excluded from the study of African art history, which until the mid- to late-twentieth century

concerned itself mainly with sculpture made for traditional indigenous use. As issues of hybridity

and globalization have become central to the study of art history, and particularly contemporary

African art, the reexamination of these early examples of hybridized, globalized art can shed

light on the current art historical moment.

The Afro-Portuguese ivories can now be seen as paradigmatic for the early development of

museology, cultural anthropology, and art history as humanist disciplines. Just as Duirer

incorrectly attributed his ivory salt cellars, scholars continue to grapple not only with the ivories'

identities but also interrelated issues of "culture," "tradition," and "authenticity" that surround

1 Claire Farago, ed., Reframining the Renaissance: Visual culture in Europe and Latin America, 1450-1650 (New
Haven and London, 1995), p. 2.

18 Susan Vogel, "Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory," African Arts 22:2 (Feb. 1989): 89. Vogel introduces the
notion of these objects as "documents of an era."









interest in the first "traveler's art" from Africa to enter the global market of collecting were

directed toward these ivory carvings of the highest quality material, craftsmanship, and

innovation of form. In any case, perhaps a better way to label art made for foreign audiences by

local artists would be traveling art. This places the active descriptor on the art object itself, rather

than limiting it to just the producer or consumer and avoids the negative connotations of "tourist"

or "fourth world" art.

Collecting in Early Modern Europe

Some of the earliest European destinations for these art objects from distant lands were the

Kunst- and Wunderkammern, precursors to modern museum collections. They were collections

of natural and man-made objects assembled during the early modern era of humanistic inquiry

not only by European nobility, but also by the wealthier bourgeoisie whose social status was

rising due to their increasing material wealth and access to intellectual social circles.9

Wunderkammer collections were early modern attempts represent a "microcosm of God's

universe."10 Anything that was deemed to embody the "marvelous" aesthetic, or "anything that

lay outside the ordinary," was collected, categorized, and displayed for the insight that could be

gained from such groupings of objects, as well as for the benefit of guests visiting one's private

collection.11

These early elaborate collections were of course not open to the general public, but the

display of valuable and "wondrous" things (to use Dfirer's word) by European elites for their

peers was central to reinforcing the social position both of the practice of collecting and of the



9 Joy Kenseth, ed, The Age of the Marvelous, (Hanover, NH: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College; Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1991), p. 247.
10 Kenseth, The Age of the Marvelous, p. 247.

1 Kenseth, The Age of the Marvelous, p. 25.










described the palm mats called 'bicas' by the Temne and Bullom, carved ivory necklaces, and

sharp filed teeth of the Bullom he encountered in the Sherbro area. He described their dwellings

as "simple thatched huts" and their trade of sea salt for gold with the Susus and Fulas to the

north.7

In 1594, Andre Alvares de Almada confirmed earlier accounts of the types of handicrafts

found in the 'Sapi' coastal areas, and additionally described the use of masquerade for judicial

and civic ceremonial purposes8 (much like the function of Poro and Sande societies in modern

day Sierra Leone and Liberia). Although he wrote three to four decades after the cultural and

political disruptions caused by the inland Manis, he revealed that some "Sapi" cultural customs

continued in some form.

Colonial Era Discourse on Afro-Portuguese Ivories

Serious consideration of this early period in the life cycle of the ivories in the modern era

began with an 1851 conference of the Archaeological Institute in London, where a range of

scholars posited an origin in either Africa or India for sixteenth century Portuguese agents.9 This

symposium coincided not only with the famous Great Exhibition World's Fair in London in that

year, but also with the budding industrial and political colonization of Africa under mainly

French, Belgian, and British rule which began in earnest in the late nineteenth century with what

is now known as the "Scramble for Africa."10

In 1897, the fateful Benin Punitive Expedition resulted in the British sack of Benin City.

The atmosphere of British triumph following the event, which included the acquisition of a

SPacheco Pereira, Esmeraldo de Situ Orbis, translated in Christopher Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance, pp. 41-43.

8 Andre Alvares de Almada in Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance, p. 30.

9 Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories," p. 33.

10 Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, revised ed. (Washington, DC: Howard University Press,
1981), p. 137.









CHAPTER 4
TWO SIERRA LEONE-PORTUGUESE SALT CELLARS: EMBODIMENTS OF A
TRANSCULTURAL CONCEPTION AND LIFE CYCLE

Salt cellars of Afro-Portuguese origin embodied triple layers of value for Europeans: the

precious material of ivory and its association with the elephant, their utility as a receptacle of salt

(another precious commodity for both Europeans and Africans), and their value as an exotic

memento of distant exploration. A detailed discussion of two distinct ivory salt cellars with

several traits in common will provide a means of unpacking these layers. One of the salt cellars

is well-known to scholars and is owned by the Museo Nazionale Preistorico e Etnographico in

Rome (Figure 1), while the other makes its first prolonged public appearance currently at the

Metropolitan Museum of Art (Figure 14). Each is likely carved from a single piece of ivory, with

the exception of restoration or addition to the finials. They have similar formal structures: a

globular container rests atop cylindrical structure that features a series of seated human figures

each facing outward, and with arms extended to hold decorative posts while various forms of

macabre disembodied human heads crown the tops of the dome-like lids. Kathy Curnow

surmised that this type of salt cellar was the specialty of a particular workshop or group of

carvers who worked together or at least influenced one another. 1 Ezio Bassani and William Fagg

posit that the various types of formal configurations were used across the workshops.2

The interpretation of subject matter of the ivories is as vague or unknowable as the

identities of the artists. While the Cellini salt cellar discussed in chapter 2 references Classical

motifs related to the sea, the source of salt, the mysterious figures and motifs on many of the

ivory salt cellars defy definite interpretation. Just who the figures were and what the other



1 See Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories," ch. 4.
2 Bassani and Fagg, African and the Renaissance, ch 5.










world. What, if anything, can be learned of the now-extinct "everyday life" of the early modern

Africans who produced the objects in question here if the only record is the object itself? The

Rome "executioner" saltcellar provides some important, though speculative, insight.

Around the base of the salt cellar, the male figures wear Portuguese helmets and codpieces.

These figures and their reference to things European help to reinforce the idea of Portuguese

prestige invoked by the scene on the lid. The female figures that appear between the helmet-

wearing males do not wear Portuguese clothing. They are depicted bare-breasted with geometric

markings and ringed anklets. These attributes underscore their local identity since European

women of the time would not appear with short skirts, much less bear breasted.

The alternation of Portuguese-dressed men and African-adorned women might also allude

to various transcultural scenarios such as marriage between the new population of langados and

elite native women. Or do the men represent Africans who have appropriated the dress of

Portuguese as it has been suggested the ruler-figure on the lid has done? The fact that both male

and female figures are consistently depicted with negroid facial features and standardized body

proportion shows that the African carvers could have envisioned themselves as the same as their

Portuguese counterparts.

The New York Salt Cellar

An enigmatic salt cellar has just made its first public appearance, adding significantly to

the corpus of Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories (Figure 14). The salt cellar conforms to a similar

basic formal schema (ball-on-openwork figural pedestal) as the Rome "executioner" salt cellar

and is on loan from a private collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an exhibition

called Incisive Images: Ivory and Boxwood Carvings 1450-1800, organized by Johanna Hecht.

Both Hecht, curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, and Alisa LaGamma,

curator of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, confirm that the piece fits squarely









commodity and acquisition of it a prime economic agenda for both existing West African trade

networks and European empires alike, including the Portuguese. The often-cited Cellini salt

cellar (Figure 15) cast in gold, made between 1543 and 1544, represents an apex of both artistic

virtuosity and grand positioning of salt on the tables of nobility (in this case, France's King

Francis I). Benvenuto Cellini was an artist concerned with self-promotion and a burgeoning cult

of personality growing around artists as singular authors or inventors of objects.15

Conversely, the Afro-Portuguese salt cellars of Sierra Leone created during roughly the

same period leave few traces of authorship, though it is not clear that at the time whether there

was a focus on the individual artists. There are numerous reasons for the lack of written

documentation of authorship, the main reason being that African artists worked totally outside

the European system of artistic production. Recording written accounts of their own work as

European artists such as Cellini and Duirer did was not an element of their artistic practice.

Additionally, the Portuguese visitors, who did have means of written documentation, either

chose not to take detailed account of who made specific works and how they were made or lost

them in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which destroyed all customs records from the era except

one ledger recording imports from Africa between 1504 and 1505. 16

Based on the fact that the ivories existed in some of Europe's most elite collections,

intermingled without distinction from exotica collected from other locations, it may have been

enough for the first European collectors that they were made in exotic lands and acted as

signifiers of contact and possession of prestige objects from afar. Early art historical inquiry

joined hands with early collecting practices to simultaneously seek individual authorship in


15 See Benvenuto Cellini, Autobiography, trans. George Bull (London: Penguin Books, 1998); Lisa Pon, "Cellini
and the Principles of Sculpture," Apollo 159 (March 2004): 62-63.
16 A.C.F. Ryder, "A Note on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories," The Journal ofAfrican History 5:3 (1964): 363.









CROSSING CULTURES:
AFRO-PORTUGUESE IVORIES OF FIFTEENTH- AND SIXTEENTH-CENTURY
SIERRA LEONE






















By

EUGENIA SOLEDAD MARTINEZ


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007









religious and social practices" would have enhanced and reinforced the strengths of the

exhibition.

The Bassani/Fagg-Curnow Episode and the New Era of Discourse on Afro-Portuguese
Ivories

Scholarly disagreements played out in the publishing arena are valuable for advancing

discourse on the ivories. Occasionally, these exchanges devolved into personal invective, yet, an

exchange among several scholars in the review and correspondence sections of the journal

African Arts between 1989 and 1990 echoes the shifting confusion of attribution surrounding the

Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories. The exchange shifted the focus from elucidating the ivories to

questioning the scholarly and ethical integrity of the two comprehensive works on the ivories,

namely Curnow's dissertation and Bassani and Fagg's catalogue, as well as the reviewer of the

catalogue who brought some of the similarities between the two works to light.30

In her review of the exhibition catalogue for Africa and the Renaissance, Barbara

Blackmun, stated that "it is particularly unfortunate that its publication has raised important

questions that must be addressed ... Although Curnow's dissertation appeared five years before

Africa and the Renaissance and is listed in the bibliography, not a single direct reference to her

exhaustive treatment of this subject has been made in the text,"31 and that "there are sixty

statements in Bassani and Fagg's text for which a reference to Curnow's dissertation would have

been courteous, and in some of these cases the lack of citation is extremely unusual."32


30 See heated exchange in African Arts beginning with Barbara W. Blackmun, review of exhibition catalogue for
Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory, by Ezio Bassani and William Fagg, African Arts 23(1) (November 1989):
12-20; Susan Vogel, "Responses to the Review of Africa and the Renaissance," African Arts 23(3) (July 1990): 10;
Bassani and Fagg, "Responses to the Review of Africa and the Renaissance," African Arts 23(3) (July 1990): 10-20;
Blackmun, "More on Africa and the Renaissance: Rejoinder from Blackmun," African Arts 23(4) (October 1990):
16, 93; Curnow, "Rejoinder from Curnow," African Arts 23(4) (October 1990): 16-22, 89-90 ; and Roy Sieber,
"Remarks by Sieber," African Arts 23(4) (October 1990): 90.

31 Blackmun, Review of exhibition catalogue for Africa and the Renaissance, p.12
32 Blackmun, Review of exhibition catalogue for Africa and the Renaissance, p. 16.









Why the Sierra Leone-Portuguese Ivories Are Not "Tourist Art"

Not only did Portuguese global exploration aim for economic and political power of the

royal house of Aviz, but it also resulted in a smaller scale exchange of cultural goods. The

problematic term "tourist art" has often been used in association with the Afro-Portuguese

ivories.6 If we followed Nelson Graburn's framework, the Afro-Portuguese ivories would

occupy a space in what he called societies of the "fourth world," minority societies that occupy

interstitial spaces within first world (i.e. Western) systems.7 This is a useful idea, but though the

terms "fourth world" and "tourist art" implies inferiority and undermines the cultural value of the

people and objects associated with such labels. By referring to minority societies as "fourth

world," Graburn conforms to the social hierarchy implied by such well known social

constructions as "first" (i.e. industrialized and civilized) and "third" (i.e. underdeveloped) world

countries.

Furthermore, as Curnow points out, the Portuguese did not travel to Africa for leisurely

vacation (the concept of "vacation" as defined in modern terms did not exist yet) but for

commerce, therefore, "'tourist art' is ... ill-favored because it has, to art historians at least, a

pejorative meaning; tourist art has been perceived as being of inferior quality and somehow a

bastardization of 'pure' art. 'Traveler's art' would perhaps solve the nomenclature problem ..."8

This is still a problematic term since it denies the (non-traveling) producers a role, although they

were participants in the decision to export their wares. Nevertheless, European elite cultural


6 Fagg 1959 uses "tourist art" somewhat uncritically on p. xviii; Bassani and Fagg, African and the Renaissance, p.
57 reject the term and cite "turistenkunst" given as labels in "certain [unnamed] German museums;" also see Fiona
Fiona St Aubyn, ed., Ivory: An International History and Illustrated Survey (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
1987), p. 172.

7 Nelson H. Graburn, "Introduction: Arts of the Fourth World," in Ethnic and Tourist Arts: Cultural Expressions
from the Fourth World, ed. Graburn, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 1-37.

8 Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories," p. 5.










Portuguese, langado, orfilho da terra, holding a shield and surrounded by decapitated heads is

so similar to Femandes's description, with the addition of Portuguese elements such as helmet

and breeches, indicates that Blier very well may be correct.

The skin of the Portuguese was indeed much paler than that of the indigenous Africans;

they also arrived in ships from the vast Atlantic Ocean. Furthermore, they displayed great

wealth. Thus, the ivory carvings may have corresponded with pre-existing "Sapi" beliefs about

the "other" realm. In this case, the artwork may have been more an indication of an African

artist's perception of the visiting Portuguese, rather than a case of Portuguese dictating their

perceptions of Africans, as the more "European" motifs on many of the other ivories might

suggest.

Warfare and execution as justice were expected occurrences in the lives of both Portuguese

and Sierra Leoneans. Early accounts of the peoples of coastal Sierra Leone speak of localized

warfare, capture, enslavement, and execution of prisoners.10 Meanwhile, in Europe at the time,

many crimes were invariably punished by either expulsion or execution. Therefore, the

depiction of a Portuguese-garbed African (or an "Africanized" langado?) meting out the ultimate

justice could resonate visually both for African artist and for Portuguese patron in different but

converging ways.

Perception of the Self as the Other Made Visual

In his Introduction to Visual Culture, Mirzoeff considers the visuality, or visual

conceptualization, of everyday life to be at the center of understanding culture in the postmodern


10 See Fernandes, Description de la C6te Occidentale d'Afrique; Pacheco Pereira, Esmeraldo de Situ Orbis,
translated in Christopher Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance, pp. 41-43; Andre Alvares de Almada in Fyfe, Sierra Leone
Inheritance, pp. 30-33.

1 This was infamously true on the Iberian Peninsula where the Inquisition pervaded judiciary government. See
David Fintz AltabW, "The Significance of 1492 to the Jews and Muslims of Spain," Hispania 75(3) (Sept. 1992):
728-731.









-. Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory. New York: The Center for African Art and Prestel-
Verlag, 1988.

Bhabha, Homi K. "Double Visions." Artforum 30(5) (January 1992): 85-89. Reprinted in
Grasping the World: The Idea of the Museum. Donald Preziosi and Claire Farago, eds.
Handts, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2004: 236-241.

-. The Location of Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1994.

Birmingham, David. "The Portuguese and the Africans." The Journal of African History 5(2)
(1964): 324-325.

Blackmun, Barbara W. "More on Africa and the Renaissance: Rejoinder from Blackmun."
African Arts 23(4) (Oct. 1990): 16, 93.

-. Review of exhibition catalogue for Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory, by Ezio Bassani
and William Fagg. African Arts 23(1) (November 1989): 12-20.

-. Art as Statecraft: A King's Justification in Ivory: a carved tusk from Benin. Geneva: Musee
Barbier-Miiller, 1984.

Blier, Suzanne Preston. "Imaging Otherness in Ivory: African Portrayals of the Portuguese ca.
1492." The Art Bulletin 75(3) (Sept. 1993):375-396.

Brandauer, Aline. "Practicing Modernism: '... for the master's tools will never dismantle the
master's house." Diaspora and Visual Culture. Ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff London and New
York: Routledge, 2000, pp. 254-261.

Brooks, George E. "The Signares: Entrepreneurial African Women." Problems in African
History: The Precolonial Centuries. 3rd ed. Ed. Robert O. Collins. Princeton, NJ: Markus
Wiener Publishers, 2005, pp. 213-221.

-. Eurafricans in Western Africa: Commerce Social Status, Gender, and Religious Observance
from the Sivi\eeihi to the Eighteenth Century. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2003.

-. Landlords and Strangers: Ecology, Society, and Trade in Western Africa, 1000-1630.
Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.

Burrack, Benjamin. Ivory andIts Uses. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1984.

Carra, Massimo. Ivories of the West. Trans. Raymond Rudorff. London: Hamlyn Publishing
Group, 1970.

Carreira, Ant6nio. The People of the Cape Verde Islands: Exploitation and Emigration. Trans.
from the Portuguese and edited by Christopher Fyfe. London: C. Hurst; Hamden, CT
Archon Books, 1982.

Cellini, Benvenuto. Autobiography. Trans. by George Bull. London: Penguin Books, 1998.












LIST OF REFERENCES

Abraham, Arthur. An Introduction to the Pre-Colonial History of the Mende of Sierra Leone.
Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2003.

Altabe, David Fintz. "The Significance of 1492 to the Jews and Muslims of Spain." Hispania
75(3) (Sept. 1992): 728-731.

Appadurai, Arjun, ed. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective.
Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Atherton, John H. and Milan Kalous. "Nomoli." The Journal of African History 11(3)
(1970):303-317.

Bamet, Peter. Images in Ivory: Precious Objects of the Gothic Age. Princeton, NJ: Detroit
Institute of Arts and Princeton University Press, 1997.

-"Gothic Sculpture in Ivory: An Introduction." Images in Ivory: Precious Objects of the
Gothic Age Ed. Peter Barnet. Princeton, NJ: Detroit Institute of Arts and Princeton
University Press, 1997. 3-17.

Bassani, Ezio. African Art andArtefacts in European Collections 1400-1800. London: The
British Museum Press, 2000.

-. "Raphael at the Tropics? A Carved Ivory Oliphant in the Musee de l'Homme." Journal of the
History of Collections 10(1) (1998):1-8.

-. "Arte Africana: Raffaello ai Tropici?" Critica d'arte 58(4) (Oct.-Dec. 1995): 57-80.

-. "Additional Notes on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories." African Arts 27(3) (July 1994): 34-45.

-. "African Spoons for the 'Wunderkammer' of the Renaissance." Spoons in Africa:
Cooking-Serving-Eating-Emblems ofAbundance. ed. Lorenz Homberger. Zurich:
Museum Reitberg, 1991.

-. "A Newly Discovered Afro-Portuguese Ivory." African Arts 17(4) (Aug. 1984): 60-63, 95.

-. "Un Corno Afro-Portoghese con Decorazione Africana." Critica d'arte 166-168 (1979): 167-
175.

-. "Gli Olifanti Afroportoghesi della Sierra Leone." Critica d'arte 163-165 (1979): 175-201.

-. "Oggetti Africani in Antiche Collezioni Italiane." Critica d'arte 151 (1977): 151-182, 154-56
(1977): 187-202.

-. "Antichi Avori Africani nelle Collezioni Medicee, 1-2." Critica d'arte 144 (1975): 8-23.

Bassani, Ezio and William B. Fagg. "Responses to the Review of Africa and the Renaissance."
African Arts 23(3) (July 1990): 10-20.










plethora of treasures (including whole carved ivory tusks and bronze plaques), led many

European scholars of that era to place a Benin attribution to the antique ivories already in Europe

since the sixteenth century. Charles Read and Ormande Dalton were the first to do so in their

1899 publication, Antiquities from the City of Benin and from Other Parts of West Africa, in

which they theorized that all of the ivory salt cellars, spoons, and oliphants were originally from

Benin based on formal similarities they saw.11 While their conclusions have proven to be true in

some cases, not all of the Kunstkammer Afro-Portuguese ivories were made in Benin.

That same year, German Franz Heger posited the possibility of a Loanda origin in the

Kongo region of what is now Angola, which was a hub for ivory carving for local use and export

of raw ivory at the time of his research. 12 Heger echoed a scholar with whom he consulted,

hypothesizing that in light of the recent Benin discoveries (i.e. looting), they must actually all be

from Benin: "Before one knew Benin, one attributed everything that was Portuguese-influenced

to the Kingdom of Kongo."13 That is to say, the Benin Punitive Expedition convinced him of

Read and Dalton's Benin theory over the Kongo theory. The next year, and again in 1919, Felix

von Luschan emphatically asserted a Benin origin for all of the known Kunstkammer ivories14 an

attribution later scholars assert was supported by flawed and contradictory evidence clouded by





1 Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories," p. 34.

12 From article by Franz Heger, "Alte Elfenbeinarbeiten aus Afrika in den Wiener Sammlungen," Mitteilungen der
i,,ri,. j'.. l.gi, ,, i, Gesellschaft Wien 29 (1899): p. 109, translated by Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories," p.
34-35.

13 From article by Franz Heger, "Alte Elfenbeinarbeiten aus Afrika in den Wiener Sammlungen," Mitteilungen der
l,,ri. ',. ,,'l h, i, Gesellschaft Wien 29 (1899): p. 109, translated by Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories," p.
34-35.
14 See Curnow, The Afro Portuguese Ivories, p. 36 for discussion of Felix von Luschan, "Bruchstiick einer
Beninplitte," Globus 78(19) (1900): 306-307 and von Luschan, Die Altertiimer von Benin, 3 vols., (Berlin: Museum
fuir Volkerkunde, 1919).









Both male and female heads are larger and more pronounced in the proportional scheme,

and their meticulously articulated facial features, including eyes, ears, flared nostrils, and full

lips convey an internalized and standardized image of the human face with which the maker (or

makers) canonized. The remote, unreadable expression conveyed by each face is lent an

otherworldly quality by the "archaic smile."5

Above the openwork midsection comprised of the alternating seated figures and weight-

bearing elements rests a disk surmounted by a spherical vessel whose lid bisects horizontally.

The smooth surface of the sphere is balanced by radiating vertical bands of tiny rows of the same

bead-like nodules that appear on both the base and the openwork midsection elements. About a

quarter of the way up the sphere, a horizontal band of nodules circumscribes the sphere, as does

another band at the edge of both the lower part of the container and lid.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the saltcellar is the fully in-the-round form of the

group of figures atop the lid. A large kneeling figure surrounded by six disembodied heads and a

smaller seated figure that appears to be subordinate to the large hat-wearing figure (Figure 26).

The larger figure holds an axe (an addition by a restorer) over the neck of the smaller seated

figure as if in mid-execution. One clue to the group's meaning is provided by Frederick Lamp's

discussion of the contemporaneously produced soapstone sculptures, today referred to as nomoli.

Lamp cites Fernandes's account of"Sapi" burial customs for a male notable:

They place the deceased seated in a chair with most of the garments he owns ... and they
place a shield in his hand and in the other a spear and a sword in his belt ... And if he is a
man who has killed many men in battle, they put all the skulls of the men he has killed in
front of him.6


5 Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories," p. 93.
6 Fernandes, Description de la C6te Occidentale d 'Afrique, p. 90, translated from Portuguese into English by Lamp,
"House of Stones," p. 229: "EntA poem o morto assentado em hua cadeyra c6 os melhores vestidos q elle tem ... E
p6e Ihe hua darga na mio e em outra hua azagaya e hua expada na qinta ... E se home q tem mortos muytos homes
em guerra p6em Ihe titas caueyras de homes diate delle quitos tem mortos."









works they identified as European, while works of "exotica" were relegated to anonymity from

the outset.

Langados: Those Who "Threw Themselves" Among Africans

The lanqados were Portuguese men who settled on the coast and assimilated into the

culture despite a Portuguese law against settling on mainland Africa intended to preserve royal

monopoly of trade. The derogatory name, lanqado, is a past participle from the Portuguese verb

se langar, "to cast oneself away." Langados were a mediating factor between transcontinental

Portuguese traders and indigenous African artists as well as being traders themselves.

Portuguese settled legally on the islands of Cape Verde, which they found to be

uninhabited, and mediated trade between indigenous people on the mainland and Portuguese

traveling expeditions for some time; many of the langados had originally lived in Cape Verde or

were related in some way to Cape Verdean settlers or their descendants. 17 The law against

mainland settlement reflected "the concern ... to put a halt to the activities of the lanqados ...

who reached agreements with the African rulers to settle on the mainland, adopt local customs,

and set up as independent traders."18 In the interest of greater economic opportunity and

independence from Portuguese taxation, lanqados settled permanently on the coast, were

initiated into indigenous secret societies, and married influential local women.19 Hence, they

generated a new multiracial population segment who spoke both Portuguese and local languages,

adorned themselves with both European dress and African scarification patterns, and were thus




17 Ant6nio Carreira, The People of the Cape Verde Islands: Exploitation and F,, i,,r,. ',, trans. and ed. Christopher
Fyfe (London: C. Hurst; Hamden, CT Archon Books, 1982), p. 4.
18 Ki-Zerbo and Niane, eds., General History ofAfrica: Africa from the T ,- irml to the Sixteenth Century, p. 127.

19 George E. Brooks, "The Signares: Entrepreneurial African Women," in Problems in African History: The
Precolonial Centuries, 3rd ed., ed. Robert O. Collins (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2005), p. 213.









contrast, depicts Christ crowned by thorns with a human skull (presumably Christ's) on the other

side (Figure 31). A twisted line encircles the finial on the lid echoes the twisting ovals on the

crosses below.

Spiritual and moral realms, although intangible and invisible, were believed by both

Africans and Europeans to be ever-present in everyday life. The belief in witchcraft or sorcery

was subscribed to by both Africans and Europeans as a major cause of disease and misfortune,

and amulets and other visual/material talismans were employed to ward off such real and ever-

present threats.17 While decapitated heads do appear in the Sierra Leone artistic oeuvre, the

fleshless skull does not. This drastically different Janus head was most probably added by a later,

less skilled restorer. If this finial was in fact carved by an African, which is extremely doubtful,

it is the only indication of a desire to show the face of Christ in the same style Europeans would

have and did depict him.

A more effective point of visual comparison with this finial is the tradition of French,

Netherlandish, and German carved ivory rosary beads in the form of double-faced memento mori

heads. A small head dated to 1500-1525 with the face of a young but emaciated man on one side

and a skull crawling with worms on the other side (Figure 32) at the Detroit Institute of Arts

provides an excellent example. It is much finer in detail and anatomical correctness than the salt

cellar finial; however, the theme is quite the same-a reminder of the fleeting nature of human

life. As a rosary bead, it would have encouraged its owner to accept his (or her) inevitable fate

while at the same time reinforcing his own social status with an expensive decorative object.

Furthermore, both the rosary bead and the finial with its macabre exaggerated grimace of the




1 Peter Mark, "European Perceptions of Black Africans in the Renaissance," Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the
Renaissance, pp. 23-26.









Cembelest, Robin. Exhibition review of Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory. ARTnews 88
(September 1989): 182.

Chinweizu. The West and the Rest of Us: White Predators, Black Slavers and the African Elite.
New York: Vintage Books, 1975.

Clifford, James. The Predicament of Culture: TAi eiuieith-Century Ethnography, Literature, and
Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Collins, Robert O., ed. Problems in African History: The Precolonial Centuries. 3rd ed.
Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2005.

Curnow, Kathy. "Oberlin's Sierra Leonean Saltcellar: Documenting Bicultural Dialogue." Allen
Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 44 (1991): 13-23.

-. "Rejoinder from Curnow." African Arts 23(4) (October 1990): 16-22, 89-90.

-. "Alien or Accepted: African Perspectives on the Western 'Other' in 15th and 16th Century
Art." Society for VisualAnthropology Review 6(1) (Spring 1990):38-44.

-. Exhibition review of African and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory. African Arts 22 (August
1989): 76-77.

-. "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories: Classification and Stylistic Analysis of a Hybrid Art Form."
Ph.D. Diss., Indiana University, 1983. Ann Arbor: UMI. AAT 8317158.

Delaforce, Angela. "Review: The Portuguese Discoveries, Lisbon." The Burlington Magazine
125(966) (Sept. 1983): 576-579.

Dittmer, Kunz. "Bedeutung, Daierung und kulturhistorische Zusammenhange der
'prahistorischen' Steinfiguren aus Sierra Leone und Guinee." Baessler-Archiv, n.s. 15
(1967): 183-238.

Diurer, Albrecht. Albrecht Durer: Diary of his Journey to the Netherlands, 1520-1521. Trans.
from the French by Philip Troutman. Greenwich, CT.: New York Graphic Society, 1971.

Ezra, Kate. African Ivories. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984.

Fagg, William B. Divine Kingship in Africa. London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1970.

-. Afro-Portuguese Ivories. London: Batchworth Press, 1959.

Farago, Claire, Ed. Reframing the Renaissance: Visual culture in Europe and Latin America,
1450-1650. New Haven and London, 1995.

Fernandes, Valentim. Description de la C6te Occidentale d'Afrique (Senegal au Cape de Monte,
Archipels) 1506-1510. Eds. and trans. T. Monod, A. Texeira de Mota, R. Mauny. Bissau:
Centro de Estudios da Guine Portuguesa, 1951.









Portuguese salt cellar. Its only previous appearance was when it was sold to a private collector

through a British art dealer. The situation of these Afro-Portuguese pieces among the other

European small-scale but virtuosic works in ivory downplays their "African" identity, while

attesting to their ability to seamlessly meld into a "European" context without losing any of their

distinctive visual presence.

The over-arching question raised by scholarly research and museological practices

surrounding these ivories: Who is and was discovering whom? Exhibitions can help perpetuate

or dispel biases in the possible answers to this question for the overall public perception.

Museums today play an important role in sending messages to people about how to perceive the

world, just as carefully considered scholarship can take the study of the ivories into new

territories of implication.









indigenous cultural practices surrounding the circumstances of existence of not only stone

sculptures, but also wooden and clay figures.21 William A. Hart and Christopher Fyfe provided a

chronological overview of all publications that have discussed the stone figures of Sierra Leone

since 1852. They discuss the reliability of these sources for researchers now, concluding that the

production of stone carvings probably predates the short-lived ivory carving industry. This is not

to say that the ivory carvers did not have access to or were not influenced by the style of the

stone figures.22

Kathy Curnow's 1983 two-volume Ph.D. dissertation delineates workshops, points out the

hybrid construction of the ivories as "traveler's art," and brings all works together in a catalogue

raisonne of all known extant works to 1983. She further hypothesized that in Sierra Leone, there

were two main centers or workshops that specialized in particular forms and styles of ivory

carvings for sale to the Portuguese.23

George E. Brooks has analyzed geographical, ecological, and commercial circumstances

that occurred in the pre-colonial period that resulted in a new population of what he calls

"Eurafricans" beginning with the lanqados ("Luso-Africans") and later including British.24 He

provides particularly insightful information about the interactions of these settlers, who they may

have been and how they later integrated into coastal West African societies, permanently

transforming them. Lanqados were therefore probably major players in the early life of the

ivories.



21 See Lamp, "Ancient Wood Figures from Sierra Leone," and "House of Stones."

22 See Hart and Fyfe, "The Stone Sculptures of the Upper Guinea Coast."

23 See Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories."

24 See George E. Brooks, Eurafricans in Western Africa: Commerce Social Status, Gender, and Religious
Observance from the Sixteenth to the Eihi..... ri Century (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2003).










process of cultural transformation that continues today has remained dormant for too long. Blier

has called for a re-examination of the Afro-Portuguese ivories: "Renowned for centuries as

objects of great artistic skill and beauty, the African ivories now also can be admired for the

provocative insights they encode about exchange between Africans and Europeans during the

initial period of contact."13 How, she asks, can we mine these luxury trade goods for information

about the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century's role in the process of large-scale

globalization that characterizes the modem world?

A visual culture studies approach offers a new way to illuminate the "cultural biography"14

of the Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories, the moment of their creation, and the subsequent path of

their existence. The discipline of art history with its origins in European eighteenth- and

nineteenth-century theory differs from visual culture as a tactic. 15 Visual culture studies

encompasses not only the cultural hybridity of images and their flow among and across cultures

but also a melding of various disciplines, including art history, anthropology, political science,

religion, and any study of human existence that manifests itself visually. The field of visual

culture studies, which involves the study not only of the objects of traditional art history, but of

all things visual, broadens the field of subjects to encompass visual expressions beyond the fine

arts. As important to visual culture is the tendency to visualize concepts that are not inherently

visual. Wealth, prestige, and social status, for example, are intangible ideas relative to cultural

context. Visual and material manifestations of these social constructions, such as the intricately



13 Suzanne Preston Blier, "Imaging Otherness in Ivory: African Portrayals of the Portuguese ca. 1492," The Art
Bulletin 75:3 (Sept. 1993): 396.
14 See Kopytoff, "The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process" in The Social Life of Things:
Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun Appadurai. (Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1986), pp. 64-91.
15 Nicholas Mirzoeff, An Introduction to Visual Culture (London: Routledge, 1999), p. 4.











Blackmun never actually used the word "plagiarism," but her statements and detailed

comparisons between many of the specifics of each publication were understandably not ignored

by the authors and organizers of Africa and the Renaissance, three eminently accomplished

scholars of African art and museum practice.

Susan Vogel, who was then director of the Center for African Arts as well as author to the

introductory essay for the catalogue, immediately replied to Blackmun's review. Her letter, also

in African Arts, brought counter-allegations of unsound research on both Blackmun as well as

Curnow, who had not been involved with Blackmun's review of the catalogue. In the same issue

of African Arts, Bassani and Fagg defended their research by stating that "scholars conducting

independent research in the same area and on the same corpus of materials will sometimes make

similar discoveries and reach similar conclusions."33

In her response in the following issue of African Arts, Curnow acknowledged the

fundamental differences in approach between her "Afrocentric" perspective and the

"Eurocentric" perspective of the Africa and the Renaissance exhibition and catalogue.34 In the

end, Roy Sieber's short but authoritative note stressed the importance of young scholars in the

continuance and propagation of the discipline of African art history:

For the growth of a discipline, for the deeper understanding of a subject, I believe that the
elders must credit and honor those who follow as rigorously as they expect the young ones
to honor them ... I believe that the scholarly community must consider these questions
most carefully, not as much to judge or condemn one 'side' or the other, but to reflect on
where our discipline is being taken and what self-imposed and self-regulative rules we all
must scrupulously follow to avoid both the reality and the appearance of wrongdoing." 35

Following Sieber's letter, the matter was not pursued further.


33 Bassani and Fagg, "Responses to the Review of Africa and the Renaissance," p. 20.
4 Curnow, "Rejoinder from Curnow," p.18.

35 Sieber, "Remarks by Sieber," p. 90.









An unfortunate result of this brief but heated episode has been a stagnation of published

research on Afro-Portuguese ivories. Curnow has continued to publish periodically on the

subject (among others), and remains an "Afrocentric," while Bassani has continued to publish on

the European sources for the ivories as well as numerous newly discovered extant works. Both

perspectives are valid and valuable in revealing the complete biography of the ivories. The

question of "Afrocentric" or "Eurocentric" perspectives and which is more appropriate in the

study of the Afro-Portuguese ivories does not have a clear answer because of the mixed

perspectives that contributed to the production of the ivories. The nature of visual culture

studies, which encourages the crossing of borders between disciplines and perspectives, is a way

to refresh this discourse.

Suzanne Preston Blier wrote an exploratory article published in Art Bulletin, "Imaging

Otherness in Ivory: African Portrayals of the Portuguese ca. 1492" on the occasion of the 500th

anniversary of Columbus's "discovery" of the Americas as a way not only to revise how we may

read possible perspectives of the African carvers of the ivories on their Portuguese patrons, but

also how we may rethink the entire moment of European exploratory expansion through them.36

Indeed the fifth centennial of Columbus' navigation of the Americas was the occasion to explore

that moment for several major museum exhibitions.

In anticipation of this historical milestone, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

launched the 1991 exhibition, Circa 1492: Art in the Age ofExploration.37 This exhibition used

the now-iconic and fateful year of the "discovery" of America and also the rhetoric of Europeans

exploration of lands they encountered as they expanded their commercial enterprises as a


36 Blier, "Imaging Otherness," p. 396.

37 See Jay A. Levenson, ed., Circa 1492: Art in the Age ofExploration, (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art;
New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1991).









practitioners themselves. Objects were categorized under the headings of "supernatural,"

"natural," and "artificial" (i.e. manmade).12 The Afro-Portuguese ivories embodied for

Europeans numerous attributes of the "marvelous," a multifaceted quality for which humanists

strove in collecting natural and manmade objects: the substance of ivory as a rare and natural

material carved by virtuoso foreign hands resulted in "surprisingly unexpected" and exotic

designs. 13 The mutual cultural curiosity and economic symbiosis that characterized the first

encounter between coastal Africans and Portuguese patrons, and perhaps their Luso-African

negotiators, the lanqados, could also have been thought of as "surprisingly unexpected" and

"marvelous." Both the coastal African societies and Portuguese lanqados were surprisingly

amenable to and actively interested in interacting, trading, and developing lasting relationships

with one another, which contrasts with later relationships between colonizing Europeans and the

African populations they tried to subjugate.

African ivories were included in collections of Portuguese and Spanish aristocracies, the

Medici family, Albrecht Duirer, and the Elector of Saxony in Dresden.14 The spread of trade in

African carved ivories from Sierra Leone, then Portugal, and finally to Spain, Italy, and northern

Europe indicates the broad exotic appeal foreign artworks had in these elite circles. The story of

how they have been understood and misunderstood in academic literature will be discussed in

Chapter 3.

The Salt Cellar as a Signifier of High Social Status in European Culture

Cast gold, silver, and gemstone decorated salt cellars, ornate and sculptural containers for

salt, were used as centerpieces on tables of European princes and kings. Salt was a precious

12 Kenseth, The Age of the Marvelous, pp. 31-39.

13 Joy Kenseth, "The Age of the Marvelous: An Introduction," in The Age of the Marvelous, Kenseth ed, pp. 25-59.
14 Blier, "Imaging Otherness," p. 375.









ostensibly able to operate comfortably between indigenous artists and the Portuguese travelers

who commissioned the ivories for export. 20

Were the langados' motivations for breaking the Portuguese law and becoming literally

outlaws purely economic? Or were there social and political factors as well? Some have cited

religious persecution as a motivating factor to leave Portugal behind forever: "And it was true

that many of the lanqados came from the fringes of society, especially the 'new Christians,' the

Jews who had been converted by force."21 This would explain the ambivalence of Portuguese

enforcement of the law: on the one hand they did not want trade competition hindering their

profits, but on the other hand the Portuguese authorities (and the Inquisition in both Portugal and

Spain) had no desire to allow untrue Christians to remain in Portugal. No official records of the

lanqados were kept in official Portuguese accounts, or anywhere else, an indication that the

Portuguese did not want officially to acknowledge their activities or even their existence.

Labelle Prussin recently published significant research on Jewish contributions to the

traditional arts of west Africa, and the lanqados, though not specifically mentioned in her article,

could very well play a pivotal role in that story as well. Prussin discusses the early records of

Muslim intellectuals, such as Leo Africanus, as well as various Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch,

French, and British pre-colonial and colonial accounts of coastal settlements of Jewish and New

Christian traders. New Christians were people of Jewish descent whose ancestors, or who

themselves converted to Catholicism in an attempt to avoid persecution. She notes the

"complex, diverse, and paradoxical roles fulfilled by Jews in their relations with local rulers on




20 Blier, "Imaging Otherness," p. 391; Kathy Curnow, "Oberlin's Sierra Leonean Saltcellar: Documenting Bicultural
Dialogue," Allen Memorial ArtMuseum Bulletin 44 (1991):13-14.
21 Ki-Zerbo and Niane, General History of Africa: Africa from the T-,. I /, to the Sixteenth Century, p. 127.









remains, however, either physically or in written accounts, of the objects in which the Portuguese

first observed African artists' facility and aesthetic merit. While they commissioned works in

ivory were brought to Europe and preserved in collections, purely indigenous art forms were not.

Contemporaneous objects made of wood and clay are now known, but they have been also

accidentally discovered and only occasionally excavated archaeologically. Thus, much

contextual information is lost. Valentim Fernandes, who wrote of his encounters with coastal

people between 1506 and 1510, mentioned the presence of wood, ceramic, stone and ivory

carvings, mostly referred to as "idols."36 Fernandes, who was not a langado and, therefore,

perhaps had little or no "insider" knowledge to allow for more nuanced analysis, does allude

extensively to pre-existing artistic practices in the area.37 The exact purpose, appearance, style,

and context of these art forms remain a mystery.

Artworks in wood and ceramics, especially, have eroded and broken over time due to the

relative fragility of materials.38 While no ivory pieces from this historical period made for

indigenous use have been found extant within this region of West Africa itself, a few horns with

side-blown mouthpieces have been found centuries later in European collections.39

Unfortunately, the Lisbon earthquake obliterated any further clues about the possible indigenous

ivory horn prototypes for the oliphants made for export.40 Therefore, it is difficult if not

impossible to ascertain if any iconographic elements may have been transferred to the ivories





36 Christopher Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance, pp. 22-30.

7 Fernandes, Description de la C6te Occidentale d'Afrique, pp. 68-105.

38 See Lamp, "House of Stones," and "Ancient Wood Figures from Sierra Leone."

39 See Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, cat. no. 201.
40 A.C.F. Ryder, "A Note on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories," p. 363.










Lamp relates this description of routine Sapi burial customs to a clothed male figure in steatite

surrounded by decapitated heads (Figure 27). The striking similarity between the verbal

description and visual manifestation relates closely to a more recent Temne and Kissi concept,

krifi, a term that refers to ancestral spirits who are thought to be turned to stone upon death.7

Though it is methodologically risky to connect a twentieth-century cosmology to sixteenth

century sculpture and descriptions of burial practices, separated by such a vast expanse of time

and lack of continuously reliable written records or oral history of the Temne and surrounding

"Sapi" peoples, nevertheless this correlation or affinity between ephemeral words and concrete

sculpture is too close to discount.

Just as their material encompasses visual signs of wealth and prestige, so too do the forms

and surfaces of Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories. For example, the composition on the lid,

through its hierarchy of scale, likely represents a social hierarchy between the executioner and

his smaller victim. The largest figure is shown in the act of executing a smaller subordinate

prisoner.

Social perspective is a device used in art from all over the world to denote the comparative

social status of individuals represented. A steatite carving from Sierra Leone shows a male figure

with three smaller figures lined up in front of him approximately half his height, while the larger

standing figure places his hands on their heads (Figure 28). In the kingdom of Benin, bronzes

plaques made for palace decoration also employed a similar hierarchy of scale to indicate social

rank (Figure 29). The Benin Oba (king) is shown more than twice the height as his retinue who

stand on the same ground line, while the figures of Portuguese appear even smaller, in profile,

and less distinct flanking the Oba's head. The presence of the flanking Portuguese figures serves


7 Blier, "Imaging Otherness," p. 391.









Vogel, Susan. "Responses to the Review of Africa and the Renaissance." African Arts 23(3)
(July 1990): 10.

-. "Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory." African Arts 22(2) (Feb. 1989): 84-89, 104.

-. "Introduction." Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory. Ezio Bassani and William Fagg.
New York: The Center for African Art and Prestel-Verlag, 1988. 12-20.

Voorhies, James. "Europe and the Age of Exploration." Timeline of Art History. New York: The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-.
(October 2002; accessed May 1, 2007)

Willett, Frank. Review of exhibition catalogue for Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory by
Ezio Bassani and William Fagg. The Burlington Magazine 131(1041) (December 1989):
856-857.









In cross section, a tusk exhibits a pattern of lines that intersect each other to form small
diamond-shaped areas visible with the naked eye ... This pattern has been called 'engine
turning' and is unique to [elephants] ... For example, the ivory from western and central
Africa ... is considered the best of all ivories because it is the hardest yet very elastic, and
thus more suitable for carving than that of the Bush African or the Asian.29

Because of the coveted physical properties of the West African ivory the observed for the first

time in such wondrous quantity, it is no wonder that as Europeans gained naval access to the

direct source of the material, they seized the opportunity. Europeans were not the only people

who valued elephant ivory; Africans who inhabited the same areas as the elephants valued ivory

not just for its "hardness, color, and luster, [but also] for its obvious identification with the

elephant, [which] has been the prerogative of chieftaincy or leadership in many parts of

Africa."30 Of the Temne, Fernandes says "And if they kill an elephant or buffalo they send them

to the king who eats them with the elders of the village before the idol."31 Fernandes did not

mention the tusks of the elephant, but it can be inferred that they could have also been the

prerogative of the elite class for the Temne as well. Material culture among the interrelated

groups in this coastal trading area could have shared many values, including the use of elephant

ivory in association with the elite. Wealth, prestige, and social status are dynamic ideas defined

by cultural context; visual and material manifestations of these ideas reinforce their reality. Thus,

all the carved Afro-Portuguese ivories inherently visually and materially embody the

intangibleness of both African and European social status through their precious material alone.

By the sixteenth century and beyond, unfortunately "more ivory was exported from the continent




29 Jeheskel Shohani, "The African Elephant in Its Environment" in Elephant: The Animal and Its Ivory in African
Culture, ed. Doran H. Ross (Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History and University of California, 1992),
p. 47.
30 Ross, "Imagining Elephants," p. 23.
31 Fernandes translated in Christopher Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance. (London: Oxford University Press, 1964), p.
24.









made for export from works made for indigenous use, such as soapstone, wooden, and clay

figures.

The figures on the ivories, especially the undercut, fully three-dimensional figures on the

salt cellars, bear facial similarities with the soapstone figures. Figures in both media have

distinctively bulbous eyes, widely flared nostrils, and full lips. Presumably, motifs such as

snakes, crocodiles, birds, and nude women are also locally derived, although the precise message

they convey is impossible to determine conclusively. A Sierra Leone horn at the Musee de

l'Homme (now the Musee du Quai Branly) bears a side-blown mouthpiece, a figure seated on the

narrow end, and crocodiles carved along the wider end with no recognizable European motifs.41

This horn could have been made in a purely local style and could represent one of the only ivory

examples to which we can refer for recognizably "African" motifs.

Suzanne Preston Blier proposes several tentative possibilities for determining the meanings

of other African-derived motifs.42 Throughout West Africa in general, snakes have represented

messengers between the human and spirit realms and their downward dangling positions on

many of the salt cellars could indicate that similar iconography could have a similar meaning or

intention in the ivories.43 Crocodiles also carry widespread symbolism: they are powerful

amphibious predators and could play a similar role as the snakes, especially on the lid of a salt

cellar which depicts crocodiles devouring nude women.44 This type of motif is not characteristic

of portrayals of human relationships to nature in European depictions.




41 Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, cat. no. 201.

42 See Blier, "Imaging Otherness."

43 Blier, "Imaging Otherness," 393.

44 See Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, cat. no. 32.









carved ivory containers discussed here, are the location of manufacture and reinforcement of the

reality of such intangible concepts. The Afro-Portuguese ivories represent an ideal case to study

the operation of these concepts in action.

Nicholas Mirzoeff, a visual culture theorist, considers the visual conceptualization of

everyday life to be at the center of understanding culture in the postmodern world. He describes

the conditions of modern life as essentially visual manifestations of the "constant swirl of the

global village."16 Though he writes from a decidedly postmodern, Euro-American perspective,

his allusion to the "global village" is a reference to the modern era, presuming that as the world

became more globalized through technologies of communication and transportation, the

perception of the world as a vast unknowable sphere shrinks to one of short distances and many

merging fields of vision. As the Portuguese seafarers and coastal African people they

encountered gained access to their own early modem global village, they found ways to

materialize their experiences, one of which was the cooperative creation of carved ivory objects

for export.

Many details of the Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories, Suzanne Blier proposes, offer

tantalizing suggestions of what could be at once read as Portuguese desire for exotica and as

coastal West Africans' visual interpretation of to their own world and their relationship to their

foreign patrons. Perhaps Blier's call for a rejuvenation of the study of Afro-Portuguese ivories

can best be accomplished through a visual culture framework rather than a strictly art historical

one. Claire Farago, in her 1995 collection of essays, Refraining the Renaissance. Visual Culture

in Europe and Latin America 1450-1650, calls for a "new program of study of Renaissance art




16 Mirzoeff, Introduction to Visual Culture, p. 1.









Oliphants, or hunting horns, were also prestige items for Europeans. As Bassani and Fagg

discuss in their 1988 catalogue, horns were used by Europeans during hunts to signal to the rest

of the party that the prey had been killed. 47 The images carved in relief on the sides of the

African oliphants depict hunting scenes, including men in European dress with European

weapons and usually stags as prey among verdant settings. Bassani and Fagg present several

highly convincing visual comparisons between hunting scenes from the margins of books of

hours and the adornment of several of the oliphants. In the transfer from two- to three-

dimensional rendering, carvers seem to have eliminated the illusion of receding space in the

prints in favor of stylized leaves and branches and uniform stippling of figures rather than

stippling and hatching as a shading device in the prints (Figures 18 and 19). Additional

European motifs that appear on oliphants are those related to Portuguese (and sometimes

Spanish) heraldry: coats of arms, armillary spheres (a navigational tool appropriated into the

personal coat of arms of Manuel I), and textual mottoes (Figures 20 and 21).

Another form, the pyx, was used as a ritual box for holding the Eucharist. Intricately

decorated surfaces and precious materials used to construct these boxes reinforced and made

visible the Church's authority and prestige as well as the Eucharist's holy status as a Catholic

ritual substance. The surface designs of the cylindrical ivory pyxes mainly pertain to liturgical

scenes, again derived from European imagery. For example, one of the pxyes is densely carved

with the Tree of Jesse, which depicts the biblical genealogy of Jesus Christ (Figure 22), "a

metaphor for the militant and triumphant Church," the model for which can be closely compared

with the Tree of Jesse print from the book printed in France in the late fifteenth century, Horae




47 Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, p. 98, fig. 108.










Beatae Mariae Virginis (Figure 23).48 Perhaps the commissioning of these religious scenes on

foreign art created in distant lands signified for the receivers of the gifts in Europe a spreading of

the influence of Christianity throughout the world and affirmation of its righteousness. What this

imagery signified for African artists is impossible to know.

Judging by the strong affinity between European printed material and the iconography on

the ivories, and the fragmentary first- or second-hand written accounts of Portuguese authors

such as Valentim Femandes, Duarte Pacheco Pereira, and Andre Alvares d'Almada, it appears

that many of these works were commissioned directly by the Portuguese explicitly for export.

Bassani and Fagg have hypothesized that during periods when Portuguese visitors were not

present, African artists produced works to keep in stock based on previous designs as well as on

innovations and motifs drawn from their pre-existing repertoire.49 This may explain why some

works (Figures 1 and 17) bear little or no recognizable European imagery.50 These objects might

have demonstrated that the artists could anticipate what would sell to the Portuguese traders and

possibly how far they could stray from the prescribed body of models provided to them.

Could the variety of surface decorations indicate a varying market and different segments

of collectors in Europe? Certainly, pyxes decorated with relief carvings of biblical motifs (Figure

2) were meant for and could have been gifted to officials of the church in a formal setting.

Others, such as certain salt cellars that depict nude exotic women (Figures 1, 14, and 17), may

indicate a niche market of aristocratic European gentlemen who may have perceived and enjoyed

tantalizing and bawdy imagery in the privacy of their collection rooms. Prints of displaying


48 Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, pp. 114-115.

49 Blier, "Imaging Otherness," passim; Curnow, "Alien or Accepted," p. 39; Lamp, "House of Stones," passim.

50 Ezio Bassani. African Art andArtefacts in European Collections 1400-1800, (London: The British Museum Press,
2000), p. 287.









Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

CROSSING CULTURES:
AFRO-PORTUGUESE IVORIES OF FIFTEENTH- AND SIXTEENTH-CENTURY
SIERRA LEONE

By

Eugenia Soledad Martinez

December 2007

Chair: Victoria L. Rovine
Major: Art History

The Afro-Portuguese ivories-comprised of ornately carved ivory containers

for salt (called salt cellars), hunting horns (called oliphants), forks, spoons, and liturgical

vessels-were commissioned from artists working on the coast of what is now the country of

Sierra Leone in West Africa, by seafaring Portuguese patrons during the fifteenth and sixteenth

centuries. They subsequently resided in some of Europe's most elite private collections where

they have been valued for their fine craftsmanship, rare material, and exotic appearance, but

often misattributed as Indian or Turkish.

The project focuses not only on how the ivories came into existence during this early

modern cross-cultural encounter, but also on how they have been understood, and

misunderstood, by collectors and scholars over time. An examination of two ivory salt cellars

one of which has just been made public will facilitate an understanding of how the corpus of

Afro-Portuguese ivories helps broaden the study of the art of Africa to encompass art objects

made specifically for the global market. Their culturally hybrid features defied (and continue to

defy) categorization as either "European" or "African" in collections, museums, and academia.

They occupy an ambiguous space that is both African and European in character and embody a









contemplation. Their potential utility was overlaid with a primary function as a status symbol

and precious object of aesthetic contemplation.

While we can place the ivories in their European context of collections and utilitarian

objects that served as symbols of social, economic, and therefore political status, what if any

African intention can be seen in the forms and surface decorations of the ivories? Can the

ivories be read as more than African interpretations of European tastes and styles, and interpreted

instead as the embodiment of complex transcultural negotiations, not only between patron and

producer, but also between the objects themselves and their life stories beyond the sixteenth

century?

Once removed from the context of their producers and regardless of where they actually

originated, the objects were clearly initially recognized by Diirer, one of Europe's elite humanist

thinkers, as fine souvenir collectibles from a distant realm. Both the sculptures, exotic to the first

Europeans who collected them, and by extension their African makers, join the cast of characters

of the story of the intellectual and aesthetic cultural movement into the early modern era. This

period of time was characterized by major shifts in technologies of communication and

transportation (i.e. the mass reproducibility of printed material and maritime navigational tools

that enabled a literally broader and more immediate view of the world).

The seemingly minor moment recorded in the diary of a prominent early modern artist

marks a crucial point in the history of perhaps the earliest African art form made exclusively for

export. Thus began the circulation on the world stage (that is, outside Portugal itself) of one of

the earliest tangible testaments to African craftsmanship and creativity and also a foreshadowing

of the ability of images to flow through and alter the boundaries of cultural identity.









LIST OF FIGURES


1. Rome "executioner" salt cellar. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory. Museo Nazionale
Preistorico e Etnografico, Rome. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, figure
135)

2. Pyx. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory. Private collection. (in Levenson, Encompassing the
Globe, figure A-13)

3. Spoon. Sierra Leone. ca. 1490-1550, ivory, 24 cm. The British Museum. (in Levenson,
Encompassing the Globe, figure A-10)

4. Fork. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory, 24.3 cm. The British Museum (in Levenson,
Encompassing the Globe, figure A-11)

5. Oliphant. Sierra Leone, late 15th century, ivory, metal, 64.2 cm. National Museum of African
Art, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of Walt Disney World Co. Accessed Oct. 7, 2007


6. Salt cellar with boat. Kingdom of Benin (Nigeria), 16th century, ivory, 30 cm. The British
Museum. (in Levenson, Encompassing the Globe, figure A-20)

7. Knife case. Kingdom of Kongo (Democratic Republic of Congo/Angola), ivory, 25.4 cm.
Detroit Institute of Arts. (in Levenson, Encompassing the Globe, figure A-32)

8. Cantino Planisphere, detail. Portugal, ca. 1502, illuminated manuscript on three vellum
leaves, 105 x 220 cm. Biblioteca Estense Universitaria, Modena. (in Levenson,
Encompassing the Globe, figure P-4)

9. Map of western Africa showing three centers of Afro-Portuguese ivory carving in the
sixteenth century. (Modified from Blier, "Imaging Otherness in Ivory," figure 3)

10. Map of ethnolinguistic areas in Sierra Leone in the fifteenth century. (Modified from Lamp,
"House of Stones," figure 31)

11. Male figure seated on an elephant, Sierra Leone, 15th-17th century, steatite, 19 cm. National
Museum of African Art (in Levenson, Encompassing the Globe, figure A-4)

12. Male figure, Sierra Leone, wood, 19.4 cm. Promised gift to the Baltimore Museum of Art,
collection of Elliott and Marcia Harris. (in Lamp, "Ancient Wood Figures," figure 1)

13. Head, Sierra Leone, clay, 15.4 cm. Private collection. (in Lamp, "Ancient Wood Sculptures,"
figure 8)

14. New York salt cellar, Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory. Private collection.









CHAPTER 2
HISTORY OF THE SIERRA LEONE-PORTUGUESE IVORIES

Historical Circumstances of the Ivories' Creation

The ivory sculptures carved by African artists living on the coast of what is now Sierra

Leone for Portuguese patrons between the 1490s and the mid-1500s1 occupy a gray area between

local and global markets and cultures at a crucial moment in history, the reverberations of which

are still felt today. The Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories are the sole concrete visual evidence of a

brief but significant moment in proto-colonial world history. At this time Europeans,

experiencing what is popularly known as "the Renaissance," (a renewed interest in Classical

Roman and Greek cultural ideals and humanistic inquiry that began in Italy and quickly spread to

other parts of Europe) began exploring the possibilities for imperial, economic, and cultural

growth, with Portugal taking an early lead in the nascent process of large-scale maritime

exploration.

In 1462, Portuguese seafarers first traveled to the western coast of Africa and disembarked

on the coast of what is now Sierra Leone. At this time, Portugal was beginning its ascent as a

leading economic power in Europe, and exploration of and trade with distant lands and peoples

supported its economic and political agenda. Portugal sought gold and spices initially, and when

they found ivory in greater abundance on the Guinea coast around Sierra Leone, they took

advantage of the opportunity. Another commodity sought by Africans and Europeans alike at

that time was labor. African rulers with whom the Portuguese established diplomatic

relationships, and traded in a variety of goods, including slaves (either criminals or war

prisoners), carved and uncarved ivory, and gold they obtained from the Futa Djallon region in

exchange for luxury goods such as cotton cloth, copper and copper alloys. Over the following


1 See Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories," ch. 4 and Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, p. 145.









perspectives of the world. The merging of imagery sources and possible conflation of the pale,

seafaring Portuguese with the pale, aquatic realm of the dead indicates a genuine affinity and

reciprocity between Portuguese and coastal Sierra Leonean peoples. Perhaps African artists in

reality had little or no interest in the intended Catholic meanings of the printed images that the

Portuguese brought with them, and instead formed their own ideas about the meanings of the

arrival of the Portuguese and the images they supplied as models into their own subjective and

ethnocentric ideologies.

Mirozoeff asserts that visual culture is defined by "the modern tendency to picture or

visualize existence"'3 however, this project hopes to extend the definition to include the earliest

moments of modernity and the diasporas of objects that emerged in the late fifteenth and early

sixteenth centuries. Mirzoeff s definition of transculturation as a "three-way process involving

the acquisition of certain aspects of a new culture, the loss of some older ones, and the third step

of resolving these fragments of old and new into a coherent body, which may be more or less

whole"4 can be applied directly to the body of export ivory works from sixteenth-century Sierra

Leone. The Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories alone remain as records of early modern

transcultural movements of visual forms and visualization of the first commercial, political, and

technological collaboration between coastal Africans and seafaring Portuguese.












3 Mirzoeff, Introduction to Visual Culture, p. 5.

4 Mirzoeff, Introduction to Visual Culture, p. 131.









Leone, then Benin and Kongo), then Brazil, Indian Ocean, China, and Japan. Many maps and

navigational instruments are illustrated and serve to demonstrate Portugal's leadership in these

technologies. With a forward by Portugal's President and another by the Minister of Culture as

well as chapters addressing "Portugal and the World" and "Christians and Spices" the catalogue

makes clear that the perspective is firmly Lusocentric.

As discussed earlier, the only exhibition to focus on the Afro-Portuguese ivories in a venue

exclusively for African art was Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory in New York at the

Center for African Art in 1988-1989. The exhibit was open for a short period at its home venue

and traveled briefly to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston in late 1989, but its impact, and that of

its catalogue, has been monumental. While it has been criticized for being too "Eurocentric" in

perspective, by the very virtue of its venue and limit to only the African-made ivories, it is still

groundbreaking for firmly locating the works in the history of African art and underscoring the

great and lasting ability for formal and cultural synchronicity found in many visual cultures of

Africa. The inclusion of Afro-Portuguese ivories in the college survey textbook on African arts46

as well as general Art History survey textbook sections on African arts47 attests to the consensus

that they do belong to the study of African art as much as that of art history in general.

Finally, Incisive Images: Ivory and Boxwood Carvings 1450-1800 (March 13-November

25, 2007) is a small-scale exhibition in the Wrightsman Exhibition Gallery on the first floor of

the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that focuses on the Museum's collection plus several borrowed

pieces of small ivory and boxwood carvings circa 1450-1800. This show contains a small section

of various Afro-Portuguese ivories includes the surprising public debut of a Sierra Leone-

46 Monica Blackmun Visona, Robin Poynor, Herbert M. Cole, and Michael D. Harris, A History ofArt in Africa
(Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 2001), pp. 171-172.
47 Mamiya, Christin J. and Fred S. Kleiner and Richard G. Tansey. Gardner 'sArt Through the Ages, 11th ed. (Fort
Worth, TX: Harcourt College Publishers, 2001), pp. 422-423.









describe the hybrid nature of these export goods are indicative of pervading attitudes toward

African arts at the cusp of African nations' independence. Fagg says resolutely, "Anyone may

see, from a comparison of the traditional and the tourist art of a tribe, that quite apart from the

changes in outward form something more fundamental has been lost."18 His comment is

indicative of the narrow conceptions of "tribal," "traditional," and "tourist art" that were so

prevalent at that time.

Historian Alan F. C. Ryder published a short article in 1964 on the fragmentary official

accounts from the Portuguese Casa de Guine from 1504-1505 which record the purchase of

ivory salt cellars and spoons by individual travelers to the Sherbro/Bullom area of Sierra Leone.

He says that rather than being part of the official loads of goods imported for the government,

these ivories were bought by and for private ownership. 19 Based on these important records that

solidify the case for a Sierra Leone origin, one can only imagine how the patrons interacted with

the artisans they met or under what circumstances the novel designs were conceived.

Scholars have sought ways to compare this pioneering traveler's art with something

"traditional." Soapstone, clay, and wooden sculpture provided such a means of comparison.

William Fagg first suggested a stylistic connection between the ivories and stone figures, but not

until John Atherton and Milan Kalous published their article in 1970 asserting a "Sapi" origin for

the nomoli was there serious and detailed consideration of how and why these figures were

created. The authors claim that the stone sculptures were intended to represent ancestors, though

they do not offer definitive evidence to prove this.20 Another who has published important work

on dating and attributing the nomoli is art historian Frederick Lamp, who discussed some

18 Fagg, The Afro-Portuguese, p. xvi.
19 Ryder, "A Note on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories," pp. 363-365.
20 Atherton and Kalous, "Nomoli," pp. 303-317.












The first and only major exhibition to focus solely on a large number of the extant Afro-

Portuguese ivories was produced by the Center for African Arts in New York in 1988-1989.25

Significantly, it was a venue for African art, not ethnographic materials or Western fine art that

launched this project. For the first time, the works were arranged and displayed as examples of a

specific moment in the history of art production in Africa. Curated by Ezio Bassani and William

Fagg under the directorship of Susan Vogel,26 the exhibition was accompanied by an exhaustive

and beautifully produced catalogue that included full discussions of sources, a catalogue raisonne

of all known extant ivories, and even some that are only known through drawings. Ezio Bassani,

an Italian historian of African art in Europe, published various articles on individual ivory pieces

in European collections, published in Italian throughout the 1970s.27

Curnow published one of only two reviews28 of the exhibition itself in a 1989 issue of

African Arts. While she praised the harmony between the exhibition design space and the objects

themselves, she took issue with the imbalanced "preoccupation with European sources and

contributions, [which] while undeniable and interesting, seems disturbingly like an apologia, a

way of making these examples of African art more acceptable to Western viewers by stressing

their non-African elements."29 She went on to conclude that more references "traditional ...



25 The Center for African Art is now called the Museum for African Art.

26 See exhibition preview article by Vogel, "Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory." African Arts 22(2) (Feb.
1989): 84-89, 104.
27 See Bassani, "Antichi Avori Africani nelle Collezioni Medicee, 1-2," Critica d'arte 144 (1975): 8-23; Bassani,
"Oggetti Africani in Antiche Collezioni Italiane," Critica d'arte 151 (1977): 151-182, 154-56 (1977): 187-202;
Bassani, "Gli Olifanti Afroportoghesi della Sierra Leone," Critica d'arte 163-165 (1979): 175-201; Bassani, "Un
Coro Afro-Portoghese con Decorazione Africana," Critica d'arte 166-168 (1979): 167-175; and Bassani, "A
Newly Discovered Afro-Portuguese Ivory." African Arts 17(4) (Aug. 1984): 60-63, 95.
28 The other review being Robin Cembelest, "Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory," ARTnews 88 (Sept. 1989):
182.
29 Curow, exhibition review of African and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory. African Arts 22 (August 1989): p. 77.












ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I could not have written this without the steadfast mentorship of Dr. Victoria Rovine, my

supervisory committee chair, who has supported my scholarship since my arrival at the

University of Florida. The insights of Drs. Robin Poynor and Elizabeth Ross have been

invaluable. Without my friends' proofreading and listening, maintaining momentum would not

have been possible (thanks to KH, BJ, AS, KO, MM, CM, AKF and everyone else in FAC 114).

Finally, it goes without saying that the support and encouragement of my parents, Karen Lee and

Bill Hawfield and Danielle and Manny Martinez have been essential to the completion of my

Master's degree. As KH often says in situations such as this, "It's fine."









BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Eugenia (Genia) Soledad Martinez earned a B.A. in art history at Appalachian State

University in Boone, NC in 2001 where she graduated summa cum laude. Following her

completion of the M.A. in art history with a concentration in African art in Fall 2007, Ms.

Martinez will begin the Ph.D. program in art history at the University of Florida.









Delving into these issues produces more questions than answers: What was the identity of

the ivory carvers? From what cultures) did they come? Are the ivories authentic African art?

Who defines "authenticity?" Does "African" art denote a geographic or a cultural identity (or

both, neither)? By what criteria do we determine identity? Is it a productive endeavor, or does it

ultimately lead to biased assumptions about race, class, and gender?

Since the seminal and infamous exhibition, Primitivism in TiI einieth Century Art: Affinity

of the Tribal and the Modern, in 1984, the word "affinity" has taken on negative connotations

when applied to artistic exchange between "the West and the Rest."2 Africanists and other

scholars of non-Western art have since noted and condemned the Eurocentric insinuation that

affinities between supposedly ahistorical non-Western "primitive" art and Western Modern art

(inherently more "civilized") somehow occurred on an imagined mystical and exotic level. The

exhibition excluded such culturally hybrid objects as the Afro-Portuguese ivories, which would

have been anathema to what its organizers considered "authentic" African art untouched by

"modernizing" European influence, as though authenticity can only come from hermetically

sealed uncivilized peoples. It is significant that Western artists such as Pablo Picasso (ironically

Iberian, like the Portuguese explorers of the fifteenth and sixteenth century) appropriated non-

Western visual forms because of their primitively unlearned and spiritual qualities without regard

for accurate religious or ideological contexts.

However, in the case of the early contact ivories, perhaps the word "affinity" is in fact

appropriate. While the ivories are by no means primitive in composition, technical execution, or

conception, they do represent a prime moment in history where exchange between two distinct

cultures drastically transformed not only an artistic practice, but also a way of visualizing new

2 See Chinweizu, The West and the Rest of Us: White Predators, Black Slavers and the African Elite (New York:
Vintage Books, 1975).










In the body of literature about these objects, the term "Sapi-Portuguese" ivories refers

specifically to the ivories whose origins have been traced to the coast of Sierra Leone. Because

the term "Sapi" is one that was ascribed by the Portuguese to a variety of ethno-linguistic groups

they encountered in this area and not one, cohesive group, it is perhaps not the most accurate

way to refer to these particular objects.8 The movements of populations during this and

subsequent time periods have made it difficult to identify who exactly comprised the Sapi.

Nevertheless, it does seem likely based on the few Portuguese records from that time that the

makers of the ivory sculptures were the Bullom who occupied Sherbro Island and some

surrounding mainland areas in southern Sierra Leone and possibly the neighboring Temne

people.9 Because of the uncertainty of the makers' identity and exact ethnic origin, a more

practical designation for these ivories is "Sierra Leone-Portuguese."

The Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories are forms with both utilitarian and decorative

functions. They were types of accessories that only elite Europeans used. For example, salt

cellars (Figure 1) indicate that their owners had access to so much salt (a rare commodity in the

sixteenth century) that they could make use of a large container in which to display it on the

dining table. By storing and displaying these often ornately crafted vessels in cabinets of

curiosity, the objects were removed from their ostensible practical uses as dining (salt cellars and

utensils), hunting (oliphants), and liturgical accessories (pyxes)-three major aspects of early

modern European elite lifestyles-and inserted into a context of exhibition and aesthetic


of the New York salt cellar discussed here for the first time in print, the number of complete salt cellars moves to
twenty.

8 See Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories," ch. 1; Curnow, exhibition review of African and the Renaissance: Art
in Ivory, in African Arts 22 (August 1989): 76-77.

9 See Valentim Femandes, Description de la C6te Occidentale d'Afrique; Curnow, "Alien or Accepted: African
Perspectives on the Western 'Other' in Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century Art," Society for Visual i,,i, '. '-.'i '.
Review 6(1) (Spring 1990):38-44; and Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, p. 61.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ..............................................................................................................4

LIST OF FIGURES .................................. .. ..... ..... ................. .6

A B S T R A C T ............ ................... .................. .......................... ................ .. 9

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION ............... ................. ........... ......................... .... 11

2 HISTORY OF THE SIERRA LEONE-PORTUGUESE IVORIES.............. ...............21

H historical Circum stances of the Ivories' Creation............... ....................................... ......21
Why the Sierra Leone-Portuguese Ivories Are Not "Tourist Art" ................................24
Collecting in Early Modem Europe ............................. ...............25
The Salt Cellar as a Signifier of High Social Status in European Culture ...................26
Lanqados: Those Who "Threw Themselves" Among Africans ..........................................28
The History of Ivory as a Prestige Material: Africa and Europe................... ...............31
Sculptural Production in Sierra Leone for Local Markets: Soapstone, Wood, and Clay .......33
Cross-Continental Aesthetic Migrations: Collaborative Efforts....................................... 36

3 BIOGRAPHY OF THE IVORIES THROUGH LITERARY SOURCES AND
M U SE U M E X H IB ITIO N S .......................................................................... ....................43

Early Sources on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories ............................................ ............... 44
Colonial Era Discourse on Afro-Portuguese Ivories ................................... .................45
The Post-Colonial Era: New Tactics of Systemization ..................................................47
The Bassani/Fagg-Curnow Episode and the New Era of Discourse on Afro-Portuguese
Ivories.......... ......................... ...................................... ......... ...... 5 1

4 TWO SIERRA LEONE-PORTUGUESE SALT CELLARS: EMBODIMENTS OF A
TRANSCULTURAL CONCEPTION AND LIFE CYCLE ............................................59

The R om e "Executioner" Salt Cellar..................................... .....................................60
Perception of the Self as the Other Made Visual ......... ............ ....... ........... 65
The N ew Y ork Salt C ellar ...................... ........................................................ ............... 66
Life and Death Envisioned in the Janus Head...............................................68

5 CONCLUSION: DIASPORA OF OBJECTS: TRANSCULTURAL MEMORY AND
M O T IO N ..........................................................................7 3

L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ...................................................................................... ...................77

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H .........................................................................................................85









29. Plaque. Edo peoples, Benin Kingdom, mid 16th-17th century, copper alloy. National Museum
of African Art, Washington, DC. (in Levenson, Encompassing the Globe, figure A-16)

30. Salt cellar. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory, 24.5 cm. Museo Nazionale Peristorico e
Etnografico, Rome (in Bassani and Fagg, African and the Renaissance, figure 49)

31. New York salt cellar, detail of Figure 14 depicting the finial of lid. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-
1550, ivory. Private collection.

32. Rosary bead in the shape of Janus head, two views. Northern French or Southern
Netherlandish, 1500-1525, ivory, 7 cm. Detroit Institute of Arts (in Barnet, Images in Ivory,
cat. 78.)

33. Albrecht Durer, Saint Veronica between Saints Peter and Paul (Small Passion). German,
1510, 12.7 x 9.7 cm, woodcut. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Accessed Oct. 10, 2007
.

34. Albrecht Duirer, The Sudarium Displayed by Two Angels. German, 1513, 10.2 x 14 cm,
engraving. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Accessed Oct. 10, 2007
.

35. Masaccio, Trinity. Italian, ca. 1425-1428, 667 x 317 cm, fresco. Santa Maria Novella,
Florence. Web Gallery ofArt, accessed Oct. 10, 2007 e.html?/html/m/masaccio/trinity/index.html>.

36. Caravaggio, Basket ofFruit. Italian, ca. 1597, 31 x 47 cm, oil on canvas. Biblioteca
Ambrosiana, Milan. Web Gallery ofArt, Accessed Oct. 10, 2007 e.html?/html/c/caravagg/02/14basket.html>.


































To the makers of the ivory sculptures of Sierra Leone: a memento mori for you.









skull face display a preoccupation with morbidity and mortality that was common to art from

these areas in Europe at the time.18

As a comparison for the manner of Christ's depiction in period European art, the cloth of

Saint Veronica, who wiped Christ's face for him as he struggled to carry the cross to Golgotha,

was a commonly depicted motif within Christian iconography. When Veronica pulled the cloth

away, a miraculous imprint of Christ's face remained, a miracle that was depicted in many

European prints.19 The most famous of these brings us back to Durer, who published numerous

prints with the Veronica cloth subject (also known as the Sudarium) (Figures 33 and 34).

Although Diurer's two-dimensional rendering of Christ's face is more finely detailed than that of

the sculptural ivory finial, the flat-featured bearded face, long straight hair, doleful expression,

and twisting crown of thorns are essentially the same. Since we do no know who restored the

finial (and took great liberty with it), we can only infer that they were familiar with and

influenced by the ways in which Christ has been historically depicted. Furthermore, the restorer

could have been familiar with the other salt cellars with original Janus heads, and deliberately

chosen to continue the Janus form, but treat it in a completely different way. More likely, the

restorer was familiar with European treatment of Christ's face and memento mori.

The exact provenance of this container is unknown. However, its overall form, surface

decoration, and integration of figures in the base in the so-called "i--inedi-style" indicate that it is

of Sierra Leone-Portuguese origin. The lids of both the Rome and New York salt cellars

constitute a sort of memento mori, or reminder of death, which was a popular and common theme

in many forms of art in late-medieval/early-modem Europe.20 While the reminder of death (as


18 St Aubyn, ed., Ivory: An International History, p. 112.

19 Kenseth, The Age of the Marvelous, p. 446.
20 Baret, ed., Images in Ivory, pp. 277-278; St Aubyn, ed., Ivory: An International History, p. 112.










The History of Ivory as a Prestige Material: Africa and Europe

While elephants are found in both Asia and Africa, the tusks of the African elephant have

historically been the most desirable due to their significantly larger size, harder texture, and purer

white color.25 Monumental chryselephantine (gold and ivory) sculpture was a specialty of the

fifth century BCE Greek architect of the Parthenon, Phidias. His thirty nine-foot statue of Athena

Parthenos, for which the temple bearing her name was built, was so impressive and precious that

it has remained one of his most famous works despite destroyed in antiquity.26 The contraction

of trade networks for African ivory that have long been in place are described by Doran Ross:

Roman records document the lavish use of ivory in the classical era. It was this appetite
for ivory that ultimately led to the extinction of the elephant in North African by late
Roman times. Thus with the exception of small quantities traded from Ethiopia, southern
Sudan, and parts of Somalia, [elephant] ivory was relatively unavailable in Europe for a
period of roughly a thousand years, until the Portuguese explorations down the west coast
of Africa.27

Contemporaneous with the Greeks and Romans was the Nok culture (c.500 BCE-200 CE) of

northern Nigeria, where a small (7 inches) ceramic elephant's head has been found.28 Just as

Sierra Leone's stone figures were mostly found without archaeological context in more recent

times, so was this ceramic head. Despite this loss of contextual information, its existence

indicates the elephant's importance to one of the West Africa's earliest civilizations.

The morphology of elephant ivory is uniquely suited for especially minute and intricate

carving. Shoshani explains the reasons in detail:

25 Cumrow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories," pp. 24-25; Doran H. Ross, "Imagining Elephants: An Overview," in
Elephant: The Animal and Its Ivory in African Culture, ed. Ross (Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History,
UCLA, 1992), p. 39; Peter Barnet, "Gothic Sculpture in Ivory: An Introduction," in Images in Ivory: Precious
Objects of the Gothic Age, ed. Barnet (Princeton, NJ: Detroit Institute of Arts and Princeton University Press, 1997),
pp. 3-5.
26 St Aubyn, ed., Ivory: An International History, p. 44-45.

27 Ross, "Imagining Elephants," p.7.

28 Ross, "Imagining Elephants," p. 8-9.










explicit scatological and sexual humor were quite popular in Italian and northern European

aristocratic humanist circles, and artworks from exotic lands with explicit motifs could have held

a similar, if not even more exotic and tantalizing appeal. Landau and Parshall discuss this early

modern niche market: "A deepening obsession with remote occurrences was a feature of

sixteenth-century life."51 They further assert that, "the private enjoyment of prints also helped

proliferate another genre of images: the erotic, sometimes pornographic, subject."52 Who knows

whether the nudity of female figures, and particularly the graphic nude detail of Figure 24, was

created to express local attitudes toward female nudity or with awareness of the circulation of

erotic printed imagery so popular in Europe at the time?

Since European iconographic sources are identifiable, they have been a focus for

speculation on artistic processes behind the ivories. Most scholars agree that many of the motifs

that appear to be non-African (such as stag hunting scenes, biblical iconography, and heraldic

symbols) appear to have been transferred through printed materials that the Portuguese brought

with them.53 At this time in Europe, the printing enterprise was expanding such that ownership

of books was no longer only the prerogative of the elite or clergy. Perhaps many of the travelers

and some of the lanqados owned prayer books, known as books of hours, which contained both

text and small woodblock prints along the margins. These images resemble almost precisely

some of the imagery on the ivories, especially on the oliphants. For example, Ezio Bassani and

W. Fagg identify a book of hours originally printed in France by Philippe Pigouchet for the

publisher Simon Vostre, Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis, which contains hunting scenes almost


51 David Landau and Peter W. Parshall, The Renaissance Print 1470-1550, (New Haven and London: Yale
University Press, 1994), p. 240.
52 Landau and Parshall, The Renaissance Print, p. 297.

53 Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, pp. 111-121; Curnow, "Alien or Accepted," p. 39.










nebulous cultural identity, hence the continuing complication and fascination with them and the

moment in world history they represent.









von Luschan, Felix. Die Altertimer von Benin. 3 vols. Berlin: Museum fir Volkerkunde, 1919.

-. "Bruchstick einer Beninplatte." Globus 78(19) (1900): 306-307.

Mamiya, Christin J. and Fred S. Kleiner and Richard G. Tansey. Gardner's Art Through the
Ages. 11th ed. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt College Publishers, 2001.

Marcus, George E. and Fred R. Myers, eds. The Traffic in Culture: RefiguringArt and
Anthropology. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1995.

Mark, Peter. "Towards a Reassessment of the Dating and the Geographical Origins of the Luso-
African Ivories, Fifteenth to Seventeenth Centuries." History in Africa 34 (2007): 189-211.

-. "Exotica: Portugals Entduckungen im Spiegel firstlichen Kunst- und Wunderkammern der
Renaissance." African Arts 33(4) (Winter 2000):83.

-. "Evolution of 'Portuguese' Identity: Luso-Africans on the Upper Guinea Coast from the
Sixteenth Century to the Early Nineteenth Century." The Journal of African History 40(2)
(1999):173-191.

-. "European Perceptions of Black Africans in the Renaissance." Africa and the Renaissance:
Art in Ivory. Ed. Ezio Bassani and William Fagg. New York: The Center for African Art
and Prestel-Verlag, 1988. 21-33.

Massing, Jean Michel. "The Quest for the Exotic: Albrecht Durer in the Netherlands." Circa
1492: Art in the Age ofExploration. Ed. Jay A. Levinson. Washington, DC: National
Gallery of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1991. 115-119.

Mauries, Patrick. Cabinets of Curiosities. London: Thames and Hudson, 2002.

McAlpine, Alistair and Cathy Giangrande. Collecting and Display. London: Conran Octopus
Limited, 1998.

Mirzoeff, Nicholas, ed. Diaspora and Visual Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 2000.

-. An Introduction to Visual Culture. London: Routledge, 1999.

Ogot, B.A., ed. General History of Africa: Africa from the .i\ieeinih to the Eighteenth Century,
vol. V, abridged edition. Paris: UNESCO, 1999.

Phillips, Ruth B. and Christopher B. Steiner. Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in
Colonial andPostcolonial Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Pon, Lisa. "Cellini and the Principles of Sculpture." Apollo 159 (March 2004): 62-63.

Preziosi, Donald and Claire J. Farago, eds. Grasping the World: The Idea of the Museum.
Burlington, VT: Ashgate Pub., 2004.









CHAPTER 3
BIOGRAPHY OF THE IVORIES THROUGH LITERARY SOURCES AND MUSEUM
EXHIBITIONS

Igor Kopytoff, in Arjun Appadurai's groundbreaking 1986 volume, The Social Life of

Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, speaks at length of the "cultural biography of

things."1 He says, "Biographies of things can make salient what might otherwise remain obscure.

For example, in situations of culture contact, they can show what anthropologists have so often

stressed: that what is significant about the adoption of alien objects-as of alien ideas-is not the

fact that they are adopted, but the way they are culturally redefined and put to use."2 To take this

idea further and to borrow from Mirzoeff's idea of "diasporic visual culture," a reference to the

visual cultures of dispersed human populations,3 populations of objects such as the Afro-

Portuguese ivories also experience diasporas or broad dispersals and transformation of identities

in the process of their travels.

Understanding the arts of Africa has always required multidisciplinary and multicultural

inquiry rather than strictly conventional art history. In fact, the field of African art history and

aesthetics, as exemplified by this particular corpus of works, can potentially lead traditional art

history in new and broader directions. The discipline of art history was founded on eighteenth

and nineteenth century European experience; with the introduction of aesthetic systems and

realities that lie outside those of conventional Eurocentric methods of art history, a fuller

understanding of "art" can be developed. Visuality embodies a "culture labyrinth" in which





1 Kopytoff, "The Cultural Biography of Things,"p. 64.
2 Kopytoff, "The Cultural Biography of Things," p. 67.

SNicholas Mirzoeff, ed. "Introduction: The Multiple Viewpoint: Diasporic Visual Cultures," in Diaspora and Visual
Culture, (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), passim.











CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Albrecht Durer, a painter and printmaker famous in his lifetime and beyond for elevating

the status of the artist from manual laborer to esteemed creative intellectual, was interested, as

most humanists of his time were, in a broad variety of human creative endeavors. During his

travels in the Low Countries he wrote in a December 14, 1520, entry of his journal while he was

in Antwerp, "I bought two ivory saltcellars from Calicut for 3 florins."1 "Calicut" refers to

Kozhikod, a major western Indian port that traded with the Portuguese in the early sixteenth

century. Although the Portuguese traded intensively with India and returned to Europe with

many luxury goods, ivory salt cellars from India have never in fact existed. They were, however,

documented by the Portuguese in West Africa during this exact time period.2 Thus, art historians

today can deduce that Durer's salt cellars almost certainly were of West African origin. Durer

had a collection of all manner of "intriguing things" for his collection of art objects in his home

city of Nuremberg.3 Goris and Marlier, in the introduction to the translation of Durer's diary,

note that the artist had an abiding interest in all things foreign:

Anything exotic made a special appeal: the treasures brought back by the Spanish
adventurers from Mexico and exhibited at the Palace in Brussels plunged him into such
ecstasy that he could not find words to express his admiration. This fact is significant: it

1 Albrecht Diirer, Diary of His Journey to the Netherlands, 1520-1521, trans. J.-A. Goris and G. Marlier,
(Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, Ltd., 1971), p. 83. Many have cited Diirer's ownership of these now-
lost salt cellars to demonstrate their initial privileged placement in elite collections including Kathy Curnow, "The
Afro-Portuguese Ivories: Classification and Stylistic Analysis of a Hybrid Art Form," Ph.D. Diss., Indiana
University, 1983, Ann Arbor: UMI, p. 29; Susan Vogel, "Introduction," inAfrica and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory,
Ezio Bassani and William Fagg, (New York: The Center for African Art and Prestel-Verlag, 1988), p. 13; and Ezio
Bassani and William Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory (New York: The Center for African Art and
Prestel-Verlag, 1988), p. 53.
2 Valentim Fernandes, Description de la C6te Occidentale d'Afrique (Senegal au Cape de Monte, Archipels) 1506-
1510, eds. and trans. T. Monod, A. Texeira de Mota, R. Mauny (Bissau: Centro de Estudios da Guind Portuguesa,
1951), p. 105.

3 Jean Michel Massing, "The Quest for the Exotic: Albrecht Diirer in the Netherlands," in Circa 1492: Art in the Age
ofExploration, ed. Jay A. Levinson (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art; New Haven and London: Yale
University Press) pp. 117-118.










Portuguese later encountered in these areas were better able to meet the growing demand for

slaves, first in Europe and increasingly in the Americas as Spain and England expanded their

colonial industries and the need for cheap labor grew. Some cite the trade in raw, unworked

ivory as a catalyst for and contributor to the major rise in the quickly expanding (and ultimately

devastating) slave trade. Ivory tusks were often transported to the coast by individuals captured

for enslavement from the inland hinterland forests where both the ivory and slaves were

collected. Both the raw ivory and the enslaved Africans were destined for circulation in the

cross-continental economies of European empire building. These two commodities played a part

in furthering both European, and (to a more localized extent) African programs of imperialism,

nationalism and mercantilism.4

Peter Mark attributes the end of export ivory carving, which he estimates to have been in

the early seventeenth century, to the influx of African ivory in European markets and also the

over-hunting of the largest elephants, which would have restricted ivory carving to small tusks

from small elephants. Mark asserts that small tusks would have been especially limiting for the

production of salt cellars [which were carved from the solid narrower sections of large tusks].

Since no mention of ivory "saleiros" appears in early seventeenth Portuguese documentation,

Mark concludes that their production must have ended sometime before 1600, but could have

gone past c. 1530, the date proposed by Bassani and Fagg, and c. 1550, the date proposed by

Curnow.5





4 Doran H. Ross, ed., Elephant: The Animal andIts Ivory in African Culture (Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of
Cultural History and University of California, 1992), p. 39.
5 Peter Mark, "Towards a Reassessment of the Dating and the Geographical Origins of the Luso-African Ivories,
Fifteenth to Seventeenth Centuries," History in Africa 34 (2007): 195 and 203.











15. Benvenuto Cellini, Salt cellar, called the Saliera. 1540-43. Gold and enamel, 26.7 x 33.3 cm.
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Accessed Oct. 7, 2007
.

16. Albrecht Altdorfer. Six covered cups. ca. 1530, engraving. (in Vogel in Bassani and Fagg,
Africa and the Renaissance, figure II)

17. Salt cellar. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory, 24 cm, Museo Civico Medievale, Bologna.
(in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, figure 43)

18. Transport of the killed stag. Detail from a page of the Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis, French,
by Philippe Pigouchet for Simon Vostre, Paris, 1498. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the
Renaissance, figure 118)

19. Transport of the killed stag. Detail from a Sapi-Portuguese oliphant (Figure 5). Sierra Leone,
ca. 1490-1550, ivory, Australian National Museum, Canberra (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa
and the Renaissance, figure 119)

20. Arms of Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile and Aragon. Spain, 1498, woodcut. (in Bassani
and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, figure 130)

21. Arms of Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile and Aragon. Detail from a Sapi-Portuguese
oliphant. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory, Australian National Museum, Canberra. (in
Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, figure 177)

22. Pyx, detail of Figure 2. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory. Private collection. (in Bassani
and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, figure 141)

23. Illustration of the Tree of Jesse. Paris, France, 1498, print from the Horae Beatae Mariae
Virginis by Philippe Pigouchet for Simon Vostre. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the
Renaissance, figure 142)

24. Salt cellar, detail of Figure 17. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory. Museo Civico Medievale,
Bologna. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, figure 156)

25. Salt cellar, detail of Figure 1 depicting seated figures on base. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550,
ivory. Museo Nazionale Preistorico e Etnografico, Rome. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and
the Renaissance, figure 169)

26. Salt cellar, detail of Figure 1 depicting finial group on lid. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550,
ivory. Museo Nazionale Preistorico e Etnografico, Rome. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and
the Renaissance, figure 73)

27. Male figure surrounded by decapitated heads (nomoli). Sierra Leone, ca. 15th-16th century,
steatite, 19cm. Collection Franco Monti, Milan. (in Lamp, "House of Stones," figure 27)

28. Male figure with three smaller figures. Sierra Leone, ca. 15th-16th century, steatite, 32 cm.
Oxford, Pitt Rivers Museum. (in Lamp, "Ancient Stone Sculptures," figure 14)










decorative motifs referred to or meant was likely just as mysterious to sixteenth-century

Europeans as it is to scholars today.

The Rome "Executioner" Salt Cellar

The salt cellar at the Museo Nazionale Preistorico e Etnografico (also known as the L.

Pigorini Museum) in Rome is the tallest (17 inches) and perhaps one of the most finely carved,

graceful, and iconographically perplexing pieces in these types of objects. An image of it was

used in the frontispiece illustration for Farago's volume, and it has been pictured in numerous

other publications of African art and other varied topics since its rediscovery in 1975.3 For

example, it was also featured in the encyclopedic and highly publicized quincentennial

exhibition and catalogue, Circa 1492, at the National Gallery of Art in 1991-2.4 Its singularity

and prominent appearance in some of the contemporary era's important publications and

exhibitions on art from the period propel its continued social status in the upper echelon of the

Afro-Portuguese ivories.

The egg-shell thin cylindrical hollow base is smoothly polished and interspersed with two

rows of minutely carved nodules and flares sharply at the bottom to provide a stable resting

surface. Four evenly-spaced three-dimensional figures with elongated torsos sit on the edge of

the base in an alternating male-female fashion (Figure 25). Each of the two females grasps in her

right hand a slender vertical weight-supporting column decorated with the same rows of beading

that appear on the base. Another, identical column is parallel to these, which are grasped by the

left hands of the male figures. The sculptor has positioned the two pairs of columns on exact

opposite sides of the edge of the base, as he has done with each of the other paired elements (two



3 Grottanelli, "Discovery of a Masterpiece," pp. 14-23;
4 Levenson, Circa 1492, cat. no. 67.










Prussin, Labelle. "Judaic Threads in the West African Tapestry: No More Forever?" Art Bulletin
88(2) (June 2006): 328-353.

Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, revised ed. Washington, DC: Howard
University Press, 1981.

Ross, Doran H. Elephant: The Animal and Its Ivory in African Culture. Los Angeles: Fowler
Museum of Cultural History and University of California, 1992.

-"Imagining Elephants: An Overview." Elephant. The Animal and Its Ivory in African
Culture. Ed. Doran H. Ross. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA,
1992. 1-39.

Ross, Emma George. "Afro-Portuguese Ivories." Timeline ofArt History. New York: The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-.
(October 2002; accessed May 1, 2007)

-"The Portuguese in Africa, 1415-1600." Timeline of Art History. New York: The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-.
(October 2002; accessed May 1, 2007)

Ryder, Alan F. C. "A Note on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories." The Journal of African History 5(3)
(1964): 363-365.

St Aubyn, Fiona, ed. Ivory: An International History andlllustrated Survey. New York: Harry
N. Abrams, Inc. 1987.

Seipel, Wilfried. Exotica: Portugals Entdeckungen im Spiegelfim tihi her Kunst- und
Wunderkammern der Renaissance. Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum, 2000.

Shalem, Avinoam. The Oliphant: Islamic Objects in Historical Context. Leiden: Brill, 2004.

Shohani, Jeheskel. "The African Elephant in Its Environment." Elephant: The Animal andIts
Ivory in African Culture. Doran H. Ross, ed. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural
History and University of California, 1992. 43-59.

Sieber, Roy. "Remarks by Sieber." African Arts 23(4) (October 1990): 90.

Steiner, Christopher B. African Art in Transit. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1994.

Tagliaferri, Aldo and Arno Hammacher. Fabulous Ancestors: Stone Carvings from Sierra Leone
and Guinea. New York: Africana Publishing Co., 1974.

Visona, Monica Blackmun, Robin Poynor, Herbert M. Cole, and Michael D. Harris. A History of
Art in Africa. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 2001.










tells us how Durer's spirit was moved when faced with the unknown, whether it was
something from some distant land or from some past time.4

Furthermore, Durer himself said, "I marveled at the subtle Ingenia of men in foreign lands ...

[and] all kinds of wonderful objects of human use ..."5 Surely, the exotic appeal of the "Calicut"

African salt cellars he bought was not lost on Durer, the consummate humanist intellectual.

In the first systematic modem appraisal of the objects, a 1959 publication of the ivories in

the collection of the British Museum, William Fagg named them "Afro-Portuguese ivories." He

coined this term in reference to the intricately carved ivory lidded containers called salt cellars

and pyxes, table utensils, and hunting horns called oliphants (Figures 1 through 5). These

objects were, we now understand, made in Africa for Portuguese clients between the late

fifteenth and mid-sixteenth centuries.6 The name alludes to the hybrid nature of the works-they

inherently encompass both European and African-derived stylistic forms and iconography and

resulted from the creative input of both Portuguese patrons and African artists. Although

Portuguese visitors would later commission works in ivory from Benin and Kongo carvers

(Figures 6 and 7) further east and south along the coast of Africa, the ivories from Sierra Leone

represent possibly the earliest and most prolific phase of production of African art for export to

Europe in the first moment of the pre-colonial contact period7 (see maps, Figures 8, 9, and 10).



4 J.-A. Goris and G. Marlier, "Introduction," inAlbrecht Dilrer: Diary of His Journey to the Netherlands, 1520-1521
(Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, Ltd., 1971), p. 9.

5 Albrecht Diirer, Diary of His Journey to the Netherlands, p. 64.

6 See William B. Fagg, Afro-Portuguese Ivories. (London: Batchworth Press, 1959).

7 According to Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, pp. 225-233; Bassani, "Additional Notes on the Afro-
Portuguese Ivories," African Arts 27(3) (July 1994): 35-36; and Bassani. .1 frican Art andArtefacts in European
Collections 1400-1800 (London: The British Museum Press, 2000), p. 285, there are known to be sixty two salt
cellars (19 complete or nearly complete; 24 with lid or entire upper bowl portion missing; 9 whose finial, lid, or
bowl only survive; 1 Janus head serving as a dagger handle but which could originally have been a lid finial; and 4
that only survive as drawings or inventory records); thirty nine oliphants (32 complete; 1 that has been augmented
with a silver flared end; 3 that have been broken and converted into powder flasks with metal fittings; and 3 that
survive only as drawings, photo, or inventory records); two dagger hilts; three forks; eight spoons. With the addition









The question of what factors caused the end of ivory sculpture production in this particular

area yields answers as unclear and complex as other issues surrounding this moment in time,

place, and material culture. Scholars have implied that around the mid-sixteenth century, the

coast of Sierra Leone experienced an invasion by the Mane people from the interior.57 It has also

been suggested that the Manes gradually encroached into Sapi areas, to settle in new territories

and collect slaves for local use and some for export to Europe and the Americas. These included

skilled Sapi workers, such as artisans, ironically for sale to the same Portuguese who were

trading with Sapi artists.58 Collection and exportation of slaves became a central economic

agenda for Portugal's King Manuel I in his uneasy alliance with King Ferdinand of Spain in the

sixteenth century.59 This explanation of gradual encroachment and disruption of cultural

practices as a cause for ivory sculpture decline is reasonable. It implies the deeply ambiguous

nature of the development of early trade between Portuguese and Africans.

Once the ivories arrived in Europe and began circulating and appearing in collection

inventories, they were attributed variously to either Indian or Turkish artists,60 as our Duirer salt

cellars reveal. The ivory carving traditions of Islamic peoples were known to Europeans since

the Middle Ages, and the Portuguese did indeed bring numerous and varied ivory carvings back

to Europe from Asia during the sixteenth centuries. These attributions do not match the Afro-

Portuguese ivories stylistically, formally, or ideologically (Islamic doctrine often, but not always,

inhibited figural depiction in art). Additionally, the few Portuguese trade accounts that survive


57 Yves Person, 1961, summarized in W. A. Hart and Christopher Fyfe, "The Stone Sculptures of the Upper Guinea
Coast." History in Africa 20 (1993): 76-78; See also Lamp, "House of Stones," pp. 229-231 and Lamp, "Ancient
Wood Figures from Sierra Leone," pp. 54-55.
58 Aldo Tagliaferri summarized in Hart and Fyfe, "The Stone Sculptures of the Upper Guinea Coast," p. 83.

59 Blier, "Imaging Otherness," p. 395.

60 Bassani and Fagg, African and the Renaissance, p. 53.










framework to display the collected objects from Africa, Asia, and the Americas that are now the

visual and material residue of that era.

Africa was represented by a Jenne terracotta equestrian figure, Benin cast brass figures and

plaques and ivory carvings both for local use and export, a Kongo-Portuguese carved horn, and

several Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories (including the Rome exectutioner salt cellar).38 Homi K.

Bhabha wrote an essay addressing the overall message of the exhibition, called "Double Visions"

reprinted in a volume, Grasping the World: the Idea of the Museum, edited by Donald Preziosi

and Claire Farago.39 His insights about the power dynamics in motion in the exhibition and how

the past should be told, and who gets to define it was important in questioning the power of the

blockbuster exhibition in conveying undertones of cultural dominance to museum goers. Bhaba

states:

What was once exotic and archaic, tribal or folkloristic, inspired by strange gods, is now
given a secular national present, and an international future. Sites of cultural difference too
easily become part of the post-Modern West's thirst for its own ethnicity ... The global
perspective in 1492 as in 1992 is the purview of power. The globe shrinks for those who
own it; for the displaced or the dispossessed, the migrant or refugee, no distance is more
awesome than the few feet across borders or frontiers.40

It could be said that the Afro-Portuguese ivories themselves were preordained to be distanced

from their geographical point of origin and they have been further displaced by great temporal

distances as well. They are a dispersed "migrant" object population with no original home to

which to return.





38 Levenson, Circa 1492, pp. 176-191.

39 Homi K. Bhabha, "Double Visions," Artforum 30:5 (January 1992): 85-89, reprinted in Grasping the World: The
Idea of the Museum, eds. Donald Preziosi and Claire Farago (Handts, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2004),
pp. 236-241.
40 Bhabha, "Double Visions," p. 240.










than was ever used by Africans themselves ... The standard practice was to use slaves [as porters

to carry ivory from the interior] that could be sold upon reaching the coast."32

For Europeans, ivory "has long been a rare and valued material for carving. Ivory was a

favorite material of the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean, and its popularity continued in

Roman art and in the art of Byzantium."33 Furthermore, as Kessler states:

... like gold, bronze, and porphyry, ivory also retained political connotations through its
sumptuousness and history in imperial service; and, although much ivory was delicately
polychromed and, as in antiquity, detailed in gold, it conveyed fleshiness and invited
handling. For those reasons, it was often used to portray Christ ... Many materials were
selected because they seemed, in their very nature, to negotiate between the world of
matter and the world of spirit (gold, gems, and glass, for instance), which were
continuously being transformed in changing light.34

The African ivory carvings discussed here would have conformed to these spiritual attitudes of

Europeans toward the material of ivory, as well as to expectations imposed in some of the

decorative programs, such as scenes from books of hours, crosses, and biblical motifs. The Sierra

Leone artists may have also held attitudes equating the material of elephant ivory with the

spiritual power of the elephant itself.

Sculptural Production in Sierra Leone for Local Markets: Soapstone, Wood, and Clay

Following Fagg's initial hypothesis, the most often-cited indigenous sources or are steatite

figures called nomoli by modern Mende who find them buried in the ground along the coast

(Figure 11) and also called pomtan by the modern Kissi and Temne, which have been unearthed

further inland.35 The Portuguese recognized the technical skill of indigenous artists. Little


32 Ross, "Imagining Elephants," p. 39.

33 Peter Barnet, "Gothic Sculpture in Ivory: An Introduction," Images in Ivory: Precious Objects of the Gothic Age,
ed. Peter Barnet (Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, 1997), p. 3.
34 Herbert L. Kessler, Seeing Medieval Art, (Ontario: Broadview Press, 2004), p. 27-29.

35 Fagg, Afro-Portuguese Ivories, p. xx; Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, p. 44; Curnow, "Alien or
Accepted," p. 40; Lamp, "Ancient Wood Figures from Sierra Leone," pp. 54-55.










within the style of the Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories and is surely from that era of exchange. 12

Hecht further notes that the form and style is "particularly close to the example in the Museo

[Nazionale] Preistorico e Etnografico in Rome."13 Here, she is referring not to the "executioner"

salt cellar (Figure 1) but to another salt cellar with a conventional Janus head finial in that

collection (Figure 30). However, the New York salt cellar also resembles the Rome execution

scene example in several ways that enforce its place within the group of Sierra Leone-Portuguese

ivories.

Like the Rome example, this container has a short, diagonal base that angles directly at a

450 slant without the curved effect of the Rome "executioner" container's flared base. A sunken

relief narrow zig-zag line traces both the top and bottom edge of this base, while a wider zig-zag

pattern made of a single line of inset bead-like nodules circles middle band of the base. Four

male-female alternating seated figures also perch at even intervals around the edge of the circular

base, though these are weight-supporting caryatids with spiral rods extending from their heads to

meet the base of bowl above. The figures each grasp two supporting openwork knot forms

located opposite each other along the base which are nearly identical to the supporting knot

forms on the Rome "executioner" salt cellar. A short rod decorated with a closely spaced spiral

ridge pattern extends from the top of the four heads to the disk shape which is surmounted by a

sphere bisected horizontally between bowl and lid.

Two large cruciform pillars rise upward from either side of the base and each is decorated

with a small twisting oval carved in relief at the point of intersection. Holes have been bored

through many of the smooth planes on both the base and bowl, some of which are filled in with

12 Johanna Hecht, "Re: grad student at UF, inquiry about an Afro-Portuguese ivory in Incisive Images exhib.," e-
mail to the author, Sept. 25, 2007; Alisa LaGamma, "RE: student of Vicki Rovine with question about an ivory
object in Incisive Images exhibition," e-mail to the author, Sept. 19, 2007.

13 Hecht, "Re: grad student at UF."









women, two men, two pairs of columns, etc.). Climbing down each of the four vertical column

pairs is a small, schematically textured crocodile with miniscule rows of sharp bared teeth.

The women's left hands (and men's right hands) grasp a curved, slender knot form, two of

which also appear opposite each other dictated by the circular base. These knot forms, like the

column pairs, are also weight-bearing and are decorated with tiny rows of bead-like nodules, the

effect of which lends an added layer of visual unity and three-dimensional radial symmetry. The

knots are formed by V-shaped rods extending vertically toward one another from both the base

below and above from the underside of a horizontally circular disk form that acts both as a roof

over the heads of the figures and a secondary flat base for the bowl situated above. A circular

rope form unites the confronting pairs of V shapes. The stacks of thin rings carved around the

terminating points of the columns and V sections of the knots echo the carving of the tiny fingers

wrapped around each supporting element as well as the series of rings carved around the

women's ankles.

The two male figures also wear gender-specific costume and retain the same elongated

torsos, short limbs, and proportionally large heads in keeping with the female figures. The males

each wear close-fitting above-the-knee breeches with articulated codpieces (genital coverings), a

rimmed hat, and a short vest that leaves the midriff bare. The female figures are carved with

smooth close-fitting dome-shaped caps, each with a small flap hanging a short distance down the

elongated cylindrical neck. Each wears a smooth-textured knee-length skirt with a narrow border

at the bottom carved with a continuous sunken-relief zig-zag line. Their bare chests are decorated

with crossed bands of beaded rows that mimic those appearing throughout each element of the

piece-and possibly represent stylized keloid scarification patterns.









Heger, Franz. "Die Altertiimer von Benin." Mitteilungen der geographischen gesallschaft in
Wien 44:1 & 2 (1901): 9-28.

-"Alte Elfenbeinarbeiten aus Afrika in den Wiener Sammlungen." Mitteilungen der
anthropologischen Gesellschaft Wien 29 (1899): 101-109.

Hobhouse, Christopher. 1851 and the Crystal Palace. London: John Murray, 1950.

Kenseth, Joy, ed. The Age of the Marvelous. Hanover, NH: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth
College; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Kessler, Herbert. Seeing Medieval Art. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2004.

Ki-Zerbo, Joseph and Djibril Tasmir Niane, eds. General History of Africa: Africa from the
TM elf/h to the S.i\eeii/l Century, vol. IV, abridged edition. Paris: UNESCO, 1997.

Koeppe, Wolfram. "Collecting for the Kunstkammer." Timeline ofArt History. New York: The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-.
(October 2002; accessed May 1, 2007)

Kopytoff, Igor. "The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process." The Social
Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Arjun Appadurai, ed. Cambridge,
UK and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986. 64-91.

LaGamma, Alisa. "RE: student of Vicki Rovine with question about an ivory object in Incisive
Images exhibition." E-mail to the author, Sept. 19, 2007.

Lamp, Frederick J. "House of Stones: Memorial Art of Fifteenth-Century Sierra Leone." The Art
Bulletin 65(2) (June 1983): 219-237.

-"Ancient Wood Figures from Sierra Leone." African Arts 23:2 (April 1990): 48-59. (accessed
via EBSCO Host Research Databases, html version: pagination not applicable)

Landau, David and Peter W. Parshall. The Renaissance Print 1470-1550. New Haven and
London: Yale University Press, 1994.

Landau, Paul S. and Deborah D. Kaspin, eds. Images and Empires: Visuality in Colonial and
PostcolonialAfrica. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press,
2002.

Levenson, Jay A., ed. Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th
Centuries. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2007.

-ed. Circa 1492: Art in the Age ofExploration. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art;
New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1991.

Lips, Julius Ernst. The Savage Hits Back. Trans. Vincent Benson. Hyde Park, NY: University
Books Inc., 1966. First published in German in London: Dickson, 1937.









that we have to compare to the ivories and are therefore important in the speculative

reconstruction of their African perspective. Chapter 2 closes with a general discussion of African

and Portuguese aesthetic values and the specific conditions surrounding them and the functions

of their forms as both utilitarian objects and transcultural aesthetic emblems.

Chapter 3 examines the social lives of the ivories once they were exchanged out of their

original context of creation (Africa, by way of Portugal), and into the global collecting and

academic markets. The problems of lost records, misattribution, and eventual integration into the

field of African art history (as opposed to the alternative being forgotten in a nebulous past),

despite or perhaps because of their inherently multicultural character, demonstrates the changing

attitudes toward these ivories. The chapter concludes with an overview of exhibitions that have

included the Afro-Portuguese ivories and the ways and contexts in which they have been situated

in these exhibitions. The public exposure generated by these exhibitions indicates public interest

in this early moment of the globalization.

A fourth chapter that examines two specific salt cellars from Sierra Leone, one well-known

(Figure 1), the other the newest addition to the corpus (Figure 14), will provide a means of

reading the social life of the ivories as a group and illuminate them as the embodiment of their

transcultural conception, transport, and negotiation through space, time and social circles. Both

salt cellars described here exemplify the cooperation between patron and artist, merging

Portuguese and African cultural identities, while remaining as two examples of the only material

records of this long-past and briefly synchronistic collaboration.










identical in composition and figural positioning to hunting scenes on several of the extant

oliphants (Figures 18 and 19).54 Bassani has subsequently published extensively on printed

sources for Sierra Leone ivory designs.55 Based on his numerous and varied comparisons of

prints and ivories, it is now virtually irrefutable that African artists had some visual reference for

images conceived and printed originally in Europe.

It is not clear precisely how these images were conveyed to African artists as models. In

Europe during this era, the circulation of prints provided the most important and common means

for the transmission of artistic ideas, and producing expendable copies of printed images to

supply as models for foreign artists is entirely plausible. Certainly, books were not expendable

and easily replaceable at this point, and commissioning individuals would probably not agree to

part with their books to leave with foreign artists. Bassani and Fagg have hypothesized that

printed images from books were most likely copied through drawings and then given to artists as

models.56 In this way, the image is far removed from the original, once from the plate on which

it was carved, again in its transfer from reproducible print to singular drawing, and once again

geographically and culturally re-inserted into an entirely different carving practiced by artists

who had no a second-hand point of reference for what the images meant in their European

context.




54 Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, 114-115.

55 See Bassani. African Art andArtefacts, passim; Bassani, "Raphael at the Tropics?: A Carved Ivory Oliphant in the
Musee de 1'Homme," Journal of the History of Collections 10(1) (1998), passim; Bassani, "Arte Africana: Raffaello
ai Tropici?" Critica d'arte 58(4) (Oct.-Dec. 1995), passim; Bassani, "Additional Notes on the Afro-Portuguese
Ivories," passim; Bassani, "African Spoons for the 'Wunderkammern' of the Renaissance," in Spoons in Africa:
Cooking-Sen ,,i; lri,,,i Emblems ofAbundance, ed. Lorenz Homberger (Zurich: Museum Reitberg, 1991)
passim; and Bassani and Fagg. Africa and the Renaissance, passim.
56 See Bassani, "Raphael at the Tropics?" p. 1; Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, passim; Curnow,
exhibition review of African and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory, in African Arts 22 (August 1989): pp. 76-77,
challenges Bassani and Fagg's imbalanced emphasis on imported European printed material as sources for ivory
iconography in a review of the exhibition and catalogue.










and its publication in Portuguese, a language not well known to many English-speakers.

Nevertheless, the inconsistency in Bassani's citations of this exhibition that so inspired him is

peculiar. Importantly, this exhibition did feature Sierra Leone-Portuguese hunting horns and salt

cellars, but within a context similar to that of Circa 1492-that of conqueror displaying the

cultures of the conquered.

Exotica: Portugals Entduckungen im Spiegelfiurstlicken Kunst- und Wunderkammern der

Renaissance, was an exhibition held at the Schloss Ambras in Innsbruck, Austria in 2000 that

displayed many of the same objects as the current Encompassing the Globe exhibition, including

several of the same Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories.44 In this case, the exhibition focused on the

encyclopedic collecting practices of Austrian nobility in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

rather than on the heroism of Portuguese world exploration, but the denial of perspectives of

non-European cultures (whose visual and material culture is was fundamental to both exhibitions

as well as the Circa 1492 exhibition) is still the tendency in each of these visually stunning but

prospectively limited exhibitions.

Another exhibition to focus on the heroic achievements of early modem Portugal is

Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries, a 2007

exhibition organized by Smithsonian Institution and shown at the Sackler & Freeer Galleries and

the National Museum of African Art.45 As in the Circa 1492 exhibition, the order of display (at

least within the catalogue) begins with discussions of European (in this case, Portuguese) artistic

and technological achievements that set the stage for the story of their naval explorations and

then presents geographical regions in the order Portuguese explored them: first Africa (Sierra

44 See Wilfried Seipel, Exotica: Portugals Entdeckungen im Spiegel firstlicher Kunst- und Wunderkammern der
Renaissance (Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum, 2000).
45 See Jay A. Levenson, ed., Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries
(Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2007).










the West African coast."22 The fact that the lanqados were literally outcasts in the eyes of

Portuguese officials leads one to the possibility that at least some of them were driven to settle

on the African coast not only for the adventure and trade opportunities, but also because they

were literally cast out of Portugal by the forces of the Inquisition in Europe. Were they willingly

moving toward an opportunity for a new life after being expelled from their old one in Portugal?

To what extent did the Portuguese who commissioned the ivories interact directly with

African artists? To what extent did the langados act as intermediaries between the traveling

Portuguese and their adopted cultures? Blier asserts that the uniform rendering of facial types of

both Africans and Portuguese, especially as they appear in three dimensions on the salt cellars,

indicates that the artists had little or no direct contact with Europeans and therefore little point of

reference for comparing or contrasting Caucasoid and Negroid features.23 Conversely, perhaps

the artists did have more contact with Portuguese, as Curnow believes,24 but did not perceive

major facial differences, thereby making the Portuguese appear more like themselves.

Regardless, it is not possible to determine precisely how the Portuguese and Africans did or did

not interact during this period without oral or written histories. Such a vast period of time has

elapsed as to make it virtually impossible to reconstruct living conditions on the coast. The

presence of the lanqados make close personal contact and conflation of cultural signifiers at least

more possible than it was in Kongo or Benin, adding a layer of tantalizing transcultural

possibilities to the production of Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories.





22 Labelle Prussin, "Judaic Threads in the West African Tapestry: No More Forever?" Art Bulletin 88(2) (June
2006): 330-331.
23 Blier, "Imaging Otherness," p. 390.

24 Curow, "Alien or Accepted," p. 40.









Many collectors and scholars have recognized the singularity, technical mastery, and

aesthetic significance of the Sierra Leone ivories and have considered them prime examples of

Portuguese cultural exchange with some of the first peoples they encountered in West Africa

during an early phase of the early modem era. For example, Valentim Femandes, a Moravian

living in Portugal who published an account of the experiences of Alvaro Velho, Portuguese

resident of West Africa from 1499-1507, recorded in 1506-10: "In Serra Lyoa the men are very

clever and inventive, and make really marvelous objects out of ivory of anything you ask them to

do, for instance they make spoons, or salt-cellars, or dagger-handles, or other subtle work." 10

Damido de Gois said in 1542, "... Ivory also comes from the land of the Blacks (vases and

images that are made with a certain art)."" Centuries later, Susan Vogel admired them in her

essay for the catalogue that accompanied an important exhibition of the ivories, Africa and the

Renaissance: Art in Ivory:

The Afro-Portuguese ivories are rare and precious not only as works of art, but as the only
surviving African documents of this earliest contact. At that time as never since, the
exchange between Africans and Europeans was relatively benign and untroubled by the
history of domination and exploitation that followed. 12

While Vogel's assessment of the period as "relatively benign and untroubled" is perhaps over-

simplified, she is certainly correct to identify the ivories as exemplary documents of a moment

that sparked the historic trans-Atlantic colonialism that followed.

The possibilities for new concrete information about the ivories are few, yet the

conversation about the historical and aesthetic implications of this corpus of objects in the



10 Valentim Fernandes, Description de la C6te Occidentale d'Afrique, p. 30. For a full discussion of the toponym,
"Sierra Leone," see P. E. H. Hair, "The Spelling and Connotation of the Toponym Sierra Leone Since 1461," Sierra
Leone Studies 18 (January 1966): 43-58.

11 Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, p. 60.

12 Susan Vogel, "Introduction," in Africa and the Renaissance, p. 20.

































2007 Eugenia Soledad Martinez









justice) appears from the multiple perspectives of African artist and Portuguese patron on the

Rome ivory, the memento mori on the lid of the New York salt cellar is decidedly European. In

combination with the prominent cross with thorn crown appearing on the base, it seems that

perhaps the Portuguese patron wished to see a graphically Christian vision of death and its

meaning of salvation through Christ's suffering. The base includes the same openwork male and

female figures as those of the both Rome ivories discussed above, alternating with a vertical

element to support the vessel above, except this time, it is a crucifix with crown of thorns instead

of straight columns with crawling crocodiles. In light of the proposed reading of the other motifs,

it is unclear how these hybrid Afro-Portuguese elements fit into the overall program. It appears

that both salt cellars reflect transcultural views of death and an attempt to connect to or at least

depict the spirit realm.

The Western art historical canon contains various forms of memento mori, ranging from

the literal (consider the skeleton laid upon the Latin-inscribed coffin in Masaccio's Trinity of the

early fifteenth century, Figure 35) to the symbolic (Caravaggio's basket of decaying fruit and

foliage balanced precariously on a ledge painted in the late sixteenth century, Figure 36).

Masaccio painted his memento mori at eye level, visually competing with the holy Trinity

painted above, which emphasizes Christ's transcendence from the misery of crucifixion.

Although the configurations of motifs (the cross, the stylized crowns of thorns, the suffering face

of Christ, the macabre skull) on the salt cellar are unrelated to these European works, the themes

resonate visually and conceptually.

The modern people who unearth the nomoli figures buried in the soil could also be said to

be reminded of death through the association with ancestors from the past turned to stone









multiple paths of politics, identity, race, and religion clash and rebound on one another.4 By

tracing sources associated with the Sierra Leone export ivories and ways they have been treated

by scholars and museum exhibitions, many of these broader points can elucidated, and a picture

of how discourse around the ivories has unfolded can be formed.

Early Sources on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories

The Portuguese first reached the coast of Sierra Leone in 1460, and after the death of the

famous Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator, began trading seriously there in 1462. There are

no first-hand accounts of the interaction that occurred there until 1506-1510, when Valentim

Fernandes published an account of lifestyles and customs on the Sierra Leone coast based on the

experiences of Alvaro Velho, a Portuguese trader who lived in West Africa from 1499 to 1507.5

While much interaction between Africans and Europeans must have transpired during the late

fifteenth century, including the development of oceanic trade networks of raw materials, as well

as the possible trade in cultural goods, the record remains tantalizingly fragmentary. Fernandes

described that the coastal people made fine objects in ivory, but also made woven palm mats, as

well as wood, clay, and stone figurative sculpture referred to pejoratively as "idols."6 We can see

that, though the information is fragmentary and biased, Africans made and used their art in

everyday life to fulfill immediate secular and spiritual needs, much like the inderdependence

between art and life for Europeans at that time.

Roughly contemporaneous with Fernandes were the 1505-1508 writings of Duarte Pacheco

Pereira, a Portuguese trader who later became the governor of Sao Jorge da Mina, better known

as Elmina, the infamous gold and slave port located further east on the coast. Pacheco Pereira

4 Mirzoeff, ed., "Introduction: The Multiple Viewpoint: Diasporic Visual Cultures," p. 24.

5 See Fernandes, Description de la C6te Occidentale d'Afrique.
6 Fernandes in Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance, pp. 22-30.









the complete story, the object itself carries its history visibly and invisibly as it circulates in the

public sphere of awareness and acquires additional contextual meaning.

The struggle to categorize and properly contextualize the Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories

evokes elusive concepts. "Culture," "Identity," "Authenticity" are all words that have been used

to discuss the ivory sculptures, yet they are the concepts that become more and more complex as

we continue to unpack them. The Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories, despite or perhaps because of

the puzzling circumstances of their existence and visually forceful presence, embody the ongoing

usefulness in considering both fine art and "mere" utilitarian objects (these are both at once) as

examples of shifting cultural expression of identities.

Museum exhibitions including the enigmatic ivories reflect an abiding public interest in

their meaning and value. Exhibitions provide a public space for speculation about the new visual

culture that emerged as a result of the global character of the Renaissance period. They also shed

light onto how we conceptualize the global visual cultural environment today whose roots are

located in the expansive modes of inquiry begun in the early modem period.

The conundrum of how to conclusively identify the ivories and their originally intended

meanings exemplifies their nebulous identities as diasporic objects. They were destined to be

dispersed from their place of manufacture to elite European collections. Today they reside not

only in Europe, but in museums and private collections in the United States and Australia,

themselves nations founded on dominantly European cultural and political models. Furthermore,

unlike cultural heritage objects from the present period, these diasporic objects cannot be

claimed for anyone's cultural heritage, since the African and Portuguese cultures that produced

them no longer exist as they did in the sixteenth century.









eighty to ninety years, and perhaps into the early seventeenth century, the Portuguese engaged in

trade of various commodities with people whom they called "the Kingdom of the Sapes." It is

unknown precisely who these people were, however, most scholars agree that they were the

ancestors of modern-day Temne, Bullom (who lived on Sherbro Island and the surrounding

mainland coasts), and possibly Baga (who were probably located further north than the others

and were never mentioned as ivory carvers) and Kissi (who may have been located further

inland, beyond the coastal areas where the Portuguese ventured). Additionally, the Portuguese

probably misinterpreted the nature of the social and political situation in this area, which was not

a "kingdom" in the European sense, but rather "a series of chiefdoms or lineages united by a

common culture" and several languages and dialects2 During the sixteenth century, partially as a

result of either sudden or gradual encroachments of inland people whom the Portuguese called

the "Manes" or "Manis," the earlier populations of coastal Sierra Leone were disrupted and their

trade systems with the Portuguese were transformed, possibly contributing to the end of ivory

carving for foreign markets.3

Another pivotal factor that contributed to the end of production of both the soapstone

figures and the export ivory sculpture was the waning of Portuguese economic power as Spain's

global reach extended with the "discovery" of the Americas. Portugal moved further south and

east toward the kingdoms of Benin, Kongo, and further around the continent to the Indian Ocean

in search of further economic advantage. The consolidated networks of indigenous power the

2 Joseph Ki-Zerbo and Djibril Tasmir Niane, eds., General History of Africa: Africa from the T ,. i lu to the
Sixteenth Century, vol. IV, abridged edition, (Paris: UNESCO, 1997), p. 119.

3 Ki-Zerbo and Niane, eds., General History of Africa: Africa from the T ,. irIl to the Sixteenth Century, vol. IV, pp.
118-127; B.A. Ogot, ed., General History ofAfrica: Africa from the Sixteenth to the Ei,. ,.. iri Century, vol. V,
abridged edition (Paris: UNESCO, 1999) pp. 193-198; Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, p. 61; Blier,
"Imaging Otherness in Ivory," 390; Curnow, "Alien or Accepted," 39; Frederick J. Lamp, "Ancient Wood Figures
from Sierra Leone," African Arts 23(2) (April 1990): 54-55; Lamp, "House of Stones: Memorial Art of Fifteenth-
Century Sierra Leone," The Art Bulletin 65(2) (June 1983): 230-231; W.A. Hart and Christopher Fyfe, "The Stone
Sculptures of the Upper Guinea Coast," History in Africa 20 (1993): 84.





Full Text

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1 CROSSING CULTURES: AFRO-PORTUGUESE IVORIES OF FI FTEENTHAND SIXTEENTH-CENTURY SIERRA LEONE By EUGENIA SOLEDAD MARTINEZ A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007

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2 2007 Eugenia Soledad Martinez

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3 To the makers of the ivory sculptures of Sierra Leone: a memento mori for you.

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I could not have written this without the stead fast m entorship of Dr Victoria Rovine, my supervisory committee chair, who has supported my scholarship since my arrival at the University of Florida. The insights of Drs. Robin Poynor and Elizabeth Ross have been invaluable. Without my friends proofreading and listening, maintaining momentum would not have been possible (thanks to KH, BJ, AS, KO, MM, CM, AKF and everyone else in FAC 114). Finally, it goes without saying th at the support and encouragement of my parents, Karen Lee and Bill Hawfield and Danielle and Manny Martinez ha ve been essential to the completion of my Masters degree. As KH often says in s ituations such as th is, Its fine.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 LIST OF FIGURES.........................................................................................................................6 ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................9 CHAP TER 1 INTRODUCTION..................................................................................................................11 2 HISTORY OF THE SIERRA LEONE-PORTUGUESE IVORIES ....................................... 21 Historical Circumstances of the Ivories Creation ..................................................................21 Why the Sierra Leone-Portuguese Ivories Are N ot Tourist Art.................................. 24 Collecting in Early Modern Europe................................................................................ 25 The Salt Cellar as a Signifier of High Social Status in European Culture ...................... 26 Lanados : Those W ho Threw Themselves Among Africans............................................. 28 The History of Ivory as a Prestig e Material: Africa and Europe ............................................31 Sculptural Production in Sierra Leone for Local Markets: Soapstone, W ood, and Clay....... 33 Cross-Continental Aesthetic Migr ations: Collaborative Efforts ............................................. 36 3 BIOGRAPHY OF THE IVORIES T HROUGH LITERARY SOURCES AND MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS.................................................................................................... 43 Early Sources on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories....................................................................... 44 Colonial Era Discourse on Afro-Portuguese Ivories ..............................................................45 The Post-Colonial Era: New Tactics of Syste mization..........................................................47 The Bassani/Fagg-Curnow Episode and the New Era of Discourse on Afro-Portuguese Ivories ..................................................................................................................................51 4 TWO SIERRA LEONE-POR TUGUESE SALT CELLARS: EMBODIM ENTS OF A TRANSCULTURAL CONCEPTION AND LIFE CYCLE.................................................. 59 The Rome Executioner Salt Cellar...................................................................................... 60 Perception of the Self as the Other Made Visual............................................................ 65 The New York Salt Cellar......................................................................................................66 Life and Death Envisioned in the Janus Head................................................................. 68 5 CONCLUSION: DIASPORA OF OBJECTS: TRANSCULTURAL MEMORY AND MOTION ................................................................................................................................73 LIST OF REFERENCES...............................................................................................................77 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................85

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6 LIST OF FIGURES 1. Rom e executioner salt cellar. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory. Museo Nazionale Preistorico e Etnografico, Rome. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance figure 135) 2. Pyx. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivor y. Private collection. (in Levenson, Encompassing the Globe, figure A-13) 3. Spoon. Sierra Leone. ca. 1490-1550, ivory, 24 cm The British Museum. (in Levenson, Encompassing the Globe, figure A-10) 4. Fork. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory, 24.3 cm. The British Museum (in Levenson, Encompassing the Globe figure A-11) 5. Oliphant. Sierra Leone, late 15th century, i vory, metal, 64.2 cm. National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of Walt Disney World Co. Accessed Oct. 7, 2007 6. Salt cellar with boat. Kingdom of Benin (Nigeria), 16th century, ivory, 30 cm. The British Museum. (in Levenson, Encompassing the Globe figure A-20) 7. Knife case. Kingdom of Kongo (Democratic Republic of Congo/Angola), ivory, 25.4 cm. Detroit Institute of Arts. (in Levenson, Encompassing the Globe figure A-32) 8. Cantino Planisphere, detail. Portugal, ca. 1502, illuminated manuscript on three vellum leaves, 105 x 220 cm. Biblioteca Estense Universitaria, Modena. (in Levenson, Encompassing the Globe, figure P-4) 9. Map of western Africa showing three centers of Afro-Port uguese ivory carving in the sixteenth century. (Modified from Blier, Imaging Otherness in Ivory, figure 3) 10. Map of ethnolinguistic areas in Sierra Leone in the fifteenth century. (Modified from Lamp, House of Stones, figure 31) 11. Male figure seated on an el ephant, Sierra Leone, 15th-17th century, steatite, 19 cm. National Museum of African Art (in Levenson, Encompassing the Globe, figure A-4) 12. Male figure, Sierra Leone, wood, 19.4 cm. Promis ed gift to the Baltimore Museum of Art, collection of Elliott and Marcia Harris. (i n Lamp, Ancient Wood Figures, figure 1) 13. Head, Sierra Leone, clay, 15.4 cm. Private coll ection. (in Lamp, Ancie nt Wood Sculptures, figure 8) 14. New York salt cellar, Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory. Private collection.

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7 15. Benvenuto Cellini, Salt cellar, called the Saliera 1540-43. Gold and enamel, 26.7 x 33.3 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Accessed Oct. 7, 2007 . 16. Albrecht Altdorfer. Six covered cups. ca. 1530, engraving. (in Vogel in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance figure II) 17. Salt cellar. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory, 24 cm, Museo Civico Medievale, Bologna. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance figure 43) 18. Transport of the killed stag. Detail from a page of the Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis French, by Philippe Pigouchet for Simon Vostre, Paris, 1498. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance figure 118) 19. Transport of the killed stag. Detail from a Sapi -Portuguese oliphant (F igure 5). Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory, Australian National Mu seum, Canberra (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance figure 119) 20. Arms of Ferdinand and Isabella of Castil e and Aragon. Spain, 1498, woodcut. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance figure 130) 21. Arms of Ferdinand and Isabella of Castil e and Aragon. Detail from a Sapi-Portuguese oliphant. Sierra Leone, ca 1490-1550, ivory, Australian Na tional Museum, Canberra. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance figure 177) 22. Pyx, detail of Figure 2. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory. Private co llection. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance figure 141) 23. Illustration of the Tree of Jesse. Paris, France, 1498, print from the Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis by Philippe Pigouchet for Sim on Vostre. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance figure 142) 24. Salt cellar, detail of Figure 17. Sierra Leone ca. 1490-1550, ivory. Museo Civico Medievale, Bologna. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance figure 156) 25. Salt cellar, detail of Figure 1 depicting seat ed figures on base. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory. Museo Nazionale Prei storico e Etnografico, Ro me. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance figure 169) 26. Salt cellar, detail of Figure 1 depicting fi nial group on lid. Sie rra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivory. Museo Nazionale Prei storico e Etnografico, Ro me. (in Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance figure 73) 27. Male figure surrounded by decapitated heads ( nomoli). Sierra Leone, ca. 15th-16th century, steatite, 19cm. Collection Franco Monti, Mi lan. (in Lamp, House of Stones, figure 27) 28. Male figure with three smalle r figures. Sierra Leone, ca. 15th-16th century, steatite, 32 cm. Oxford, Pitt Rivers Museum. (in Lamp, A ncient Stone Sculptures, figure 14)

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8 29. Plaque. Edo peoples, Benin Kingdom, mid 16th-17th century, copper alloy. National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC. (in Levenson, Encompassing the Globe figure A-16) 30. Salt cellar. Sierra Leone, ca. 1490-1550, ivor y, 24.5 cm. Museo Nazionale Peristorico e Etnografico, Rome (in Bassani and Fagg, African and the Renaissance figure 49) 31. New York salt cellar, detail of Figure 14 depi cting the finial of li d. Sierra Leone, ca. 14901550, ivory. Private collection. 32. Rosary bead in the shape of Janus head, two views. Northern French or Southern Netherlandish, 1500-1525, ivory, 7 cm. Detro it Institute of Arts (in Barnet, Images in Ivory cat. 78.) 33. Albrecht Drer, Saint Veronica between Saints Peter and Paul (Small Passion). German, 1510, 12.7 x 9.7 cm, woodcut. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Accessed Oct. 10, 2007 . 34. Albrecht Drer, The Sudarium Displayed by Two Angels. German, 1513, 10.2 x 14 cm, engraving. Museum of Fine Ar ts, Boston. Accessed Oct. 10, 2007 . 35. Masaccio, Trinity Italian, ca. 1425-1428, 667 x 317 cm, fresco. Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Web Gallery of Art accessed Oct. 10, 2007 . 36. Caravaggio, Basket of Fruit Italian, ca. 1597, 31 x 47 cm, oil on canvas. Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan. Web Gallery of Art Accessed Oct. 10, 2007 .

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9 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts CROSSING CULTURES: AFRO-PORTUGUESE IVORIES OF FI FTEENTHAND SIXTEENTH-CENTURY SIERRA LEONE By Eugenia Soledad Martinez December 2007 Chair: Victoria L. Rovine Major: Art History The Afro-Portuguese ivoriescomprised of ornately carved ivory containers for salt (called salt cellars), hunting horns (called oliphants), forks, spoons, and liturgical vesselswere commissioned from artists working on the coast of what is now the country of Sierra Leone in West Africa, by seafaring Portug uese patrons during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. They subsequently resided in some of Europe's most elite private collections where they have been valued for their fine craftsma nship, rare material, and exotic appearance, but often misattributed as Indian or Turkish. The project focuses not only on how the ivor ies came into existence during this early modern cross-cultural enc ounter, but also on how they have been understood, and misunderstood, by collectors and scholars over time An examination of two ivory salt cellars one of which has just been made public will faci litate an understanding of how the corpus of Afro-Portuguese ivories helps broaden the study of the art of Africa to encompass art objects made specifically for the global market. Their cult urally hybrid features de fied (and continue to defy) categorization as either "European" or "A frican" in collections, museums, and academia. They occupy an ambiguous space that is both African and European in character and embody a

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10 nebulous cultural identity, hence the continuing co mplication and fascination with them and the moment in world history they represent.

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11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Albrecht Drer, a painter and printm aker fam ous in his lifetime and beyond for elevating the status of the artist from manual laborer to es teemed creative intellectual, was interested, as most humanists of his time we re, in a broad variety of human creative endeavors. During his travels in the Low Countries he wrote in a December 14, 1520, entry of his journal while he was in Antwerp, I bought two ivory saltce llars from Calicut for 3 florins.1 Calicut refers to Kozhikod, a major western Indian port that trad ed with the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century. Although the Portuguese traded intensivel y with India and returned to Europe with many luxury goods, ivory salt cellars from India have never in fact existed. They were, however, documented by the Portuguese in West Africa during this exact time period.2 Thus, art historians today can deduce that Drers salt cellars almost certainly were of West African origin. Drer had a collection of all manner of intrigui ng things for his colle ction of art objects in his home city of Nuremberg.3 Goris and Marlier, in the introduction to the translation of Durers diary, note that the artist had an abiding interest in all things foreign: Anything exotic made a special appeal: the treasures brought back by the Spanish adventurers from Mexico and exhibited at th e Palace in Brussels plunged him into such ecstasy that he could not find words to expre ss his admiration. This fact is significant: it 1 Albrecht Drer, Diary of His Journey to the Netherlands, 1520-1521 trans. J.-A. Goris and G. Marlier, (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, Ltd., 1971), p. 83. Many have cited Drers ownership of these nowlost salt cellars to demonstrate their initial privileged pl acement in elite collections in cluding Kathy Curnow, "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories: Classification and Stylistic An alysis of a Hybrid Art Fo rm," Ph.D. Diss., Indiana University, 1983, Ann Arbor: UMI, p. 29; Susan Vogel, Introduction, in Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory, Ezio Bassani and William Fagg, (New York: The Center for African Art and Prestel-Verlag, 1988), p. 13; and Ezio Bassani and William Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory (New York: The Center for African Art and Prestel-Verlag, 1988), p. 53. 2 Valentim Fernandes, Description de la Cte Occidentale dAfrique (Sngal au Cape de Monte, Archipels) 15061510 eds. and trans. T. Monod, A. Texeira de Mota, R. Mauny (Bissau: Centro de Estudios da Guin Portuguesa, 1951), p. 105. 3 Jean Michel Massing, The Quest for the Exo tic: Albrecht Drer in the Netherlands, in Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration ed. Jay A. Levinson (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press) pp. 117-118.

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12 tells us how Durers spirit was moved when faced with the unknown, whether it was something from some distant la nd or from some past time.4 Furthermore, Drer himself said, I marveled at the subtle Ingenia of men in foreign lands [and] all kinds of wonderful objects of human use 5 Surely, the exotic a ppeal of the Calicut African salt cellars he bought wa s not lost on Drer, the consu mmate humanist intellectual. In the first systematic modern appraisal of the objects, a 1959 publication of the ivories in the collection of the British Museum, William Fa gg named them Afro-Portuguese ivories. He coined this term in reference to the intricatel y carved ivory lidded containers called salt cellars and pyxes, table utensils, and hunting horns cal led oliphants (Figures 1 through 5). These objects were, we now understand, made in Afri ca for Portuguese client s between the late fifteenth and mid-sixteenth centuries.6 The name alludes to the hybrid nature of the worksthey inherently encompass both European and African-derived stylistic forms and iconography and resulted from the creative input of both Portuguese patrons and Af rican artists. Although Portuguese visitors would later commission wo rks in ivory from Benin and Kongo carvers (Figures 6 and 7) further east a nd south along the coast of Africa, the ivories from Sierra Leone represent possibly the earliest a nd most prolific phase of producti on of African art for export to Europe in the first moment of the pre-colonial contact period7 (see maps, Figures 8, 9, and 10). 4 J.-A. Goris and G. Marlier, Introduction, in Albrecht Drer: Diary of His Journey to the Netherlands, 1520-1521 (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, Ltd., 1971), p. 9. 5 Albrecht Drer, Diary of His Journey to the Netherlands, p. 64. 6 See William B. Fagg, Afro-Portuguese Ivories (London: Batchworth Press, 1959). 7 According to Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, pp. 225-233; Bassani, Additional Notes on the AfroPortuguese Ivories, African Arts 27(3) (July 1994): 35-36; and Bassani, African Art and Artefacts in European Collections 1400-1800 (London: The British Museum Pr ess, 2000), p. 285, there ar e known to be sixty two salt cellars (19 complete or nearly complete; 24 with lid or entire upper bowl portion missing; 9 whose finial, lid, or bowl only survive; 1 Janus head serving as a dagger handle but which could originally have been a lid finial; and 4 that only survive as drawings or inventory records); thir ty nine oliphants (32 complete; 1 that has been augmented with a silver flared end; 3 that have been broken and converted into powder flasks with metal fittings; and 3 that survive only as drawings, photo, or inventory records); tw o dagger hilts; three forks; eight spoons. With the addition

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13 In the body of literature about these objects, the term Sapi-Portuguese ivories refers specifically to the ivories whose or igins have been traced to the coast of Sierra Leone. Because the term Sapi is one that was ascribed by th e Portuguese to a variety of ethno-linguistic groups they encountered in this area a nd not one, cohesive group, it is perhaps not the most accurate way to refer to these particular objects.8 The movements of populations during this and subsequent time periods have made it difficu lt to identify who exactly comprised the Sapi. Nevertheless, it does seem likely based on the fe w Portuguese records from that time that the makers of the ivory sculptur es were the Bullom who occupied Sherbro Island and some surrounding mainland areas in southern Sierra Leone and possibly the neighboring Temne people.9 Because of the uncertainty of the makers identity and exact ethnic origin, a more practical designation for these ivories is Sierra Leone-Portuguese. The Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories are fo rms with both utilitarian and decorative functions. They were types of accessories that only elite Europeans used. For example, salt cellars (Figure 1) indicate that their owners had access to so much salt (a rare commodity in the sixteenth century) that they could make use of a large cont ainer in which to display it on the dining table. By storing and di splaying these often ornately cr afted vessels in cabinets of curiosity, the objects were removed from their ostensible prac tical uses as dining (salt cellars and utensils), hunting (oliphants), and liturgical ac cessories (pyxes)three major aspects of early modern European elite lifestylesand inserted into a context of exhibition and aesthetic of the New York salt cellar discussed he re for the first time in print, the number of complete salt cellars moves to twenty. 8 See Curnow, The Afro-Por tuguese Ivories, ch. 1; Cu rnow, exhibition review of African and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory in African Arts 22 (August 1989): 76-77. 9 See Valentim Fernandes, Description de la Cte Occidentale dAfrique ; Curnow, Alien or Accepted: African Perspectives on the Western Other in Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century Art, Society for Visual Anthropology Review 6(1) (Spring 1990):38-44; and Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance p. 61.

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14 contemplation. Their potential utility was overlai d with a primary function as a status symbol and precious object of aesthetic contemplation. While we can place the ivories in their Europe an context of collec tions and utilitarian objects that served as symbols of social, economic, and therefor e political status, what if any African intention can be seen in the forms a nd surface decorations of the ivories? Can the ivories be read as more than African interpretations of European tastes and styles, and interpreted instead as the embodiment of complex transcu ltural negotiations, not only between patron and producer, but also between the objects themselves and their life stories beyond the sixteenth century? Once removed from the context of their produ cers and regardless of where they actually originated, the objects were clearly initially r ecognized by Drer, one of Europes elite humanist thinkers, as fine souvenir collectibles from a distant realm. Both the sculptures, exotic to the first Europeans who collected them, and by extension thei r African makers, join the cast of characters of the story of the intellectual a nd aesthetic cultural movement into the early modern era. This period of time was characterized by major sh ifts in technologies of communication and transportation (i.e. the mass repr oducibility of printed material and maritime navigational tools that enabled a literally broader and mo re immediate view of the world). The seemingly minor moment recorded in th e diary of a prominent early modern artist marks a crucial point in the history of perhaps th e earliest African art form made exclusively for export. Thus began the circulation on the world stage (that is, outside Po rtugal itself) of one of the earliest tangible testaments to African craf tsmanship and creativity and also a foreshadowing of the ability of images to flow through and alter the boundaries of cultural identity.

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15 Many collectors and scholars have recogni zed the singularity, t echnical mastery, and aesthetic significance of the Sierra Leone ivorie s and have considered th em prime examples of Portuguese cultural exchange with some of the first peoples they encountered in West Africa during an early phase of the early modern era. For example, Valentim Fernandes, a Moravian living in Portugal who published an account of the experience s of Alvaro Velho, Portuguese resident of West Africa from 1499-1507, recorded in 1506-10: In Serra Lyoa the men are very clever and inventive, and make really marvelous objects out of ivory of anything you ask them to do, for instance they make spoons, or salt-cellars, or dagger-handles, or other subtle work.10 Damio de Gois said in 1542, Ivory also co mes from the land of the Blacks (vases and images that are made with a certain art).11 Centuries later, Susan Vogel admired them in her essay for the catalogue that accompanied an important exhibition of the ivories, Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory : The Afro-Portuguese ivories are ra re and precious not only as wo rks of art, but as the only surviving African documents of this earliest contact. At that time as never since, the exchange between Africans and Europeans was relatively benign and untroubled by the history of domination and exploitation that followed.12 While Vogels assessment of the period as rel atively benign and untroub led is perhaps oversimplified, she is certainly correct to identify th e ivories as exemplary documents of a moment that sparked the historic trans-At lantic colonialism that followed. The possibilities for new concrete inform ation about the ivories are few, yet the conversation about the historical and aesthetic implications of th is corpus of objects in the 10 Valentim Fernandes, Description de la Cte Occidentale dAfrique p. 30. For a full discussion of the toponym, Sierra Leone, see P. E. H. Hair, The Spelling and Connotation of the Toponym Sierra Leone Since 1461, Sierra Leone Studies 18 (January 1966): 43-58. 11 Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance p. 60. 12 Susan Vogel, Introduction, in Africa and the Renaissance p. 20.

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16 process of cultural transformation that continue s today has remained dormant for too long. Blier has called for a re-examination of the Afro-Por tuguese ivories: Renowned for centuries as objects of great artistic skill and beauty, the African ivories now also can be admired for the provocative insights they encode about excha nge between Africans a nd Europeans during the initial period of contact.13 How, she asks, can we mine thes e luxury trade goods for information about the late fifteenth and early sixteenth cen turys role in the process of large-scale globalization that characterizes the modern world? A visual culture studies approach offers a new way to illuminate the cultural biography14 of the Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories, the moment of their creation, and the subsequent path of their existence. The discipline of art history with its origin s in European eighteenthand nineteenth-century theory differs from visual culture as a tactic.15 Visual culture studies encompasses not only the cultural hybridity of images and their flow among and across cultures but also a melding of various di sciplines, including art history, anthropology, political science, religion, and any study of human existe nce that manifests itself visually. The field of visual culture studies, which involves the study not only of the objects of traditional art history, but of all things visual, broadens the field of subjects to encompass vi sual expressions beyond the fine arts. As important to visual cult ure is the tendency to visualize c oncepts that are not inherently visual. Wealth, prestige, and social status, for example, are intangible ideas relative to cultural context. Visual and material manifestations of th ese social constructions, such as the intricately 13 Suzanne Preston Blier, Imaging Otherness in Ivory: African Portrayals of the Portuguese ca. 1492, The Art Bulletin 75:3 (Sept. 1993): 396. 14 See Kopytoff, The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun Appadurai. (Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 64-91. 15 Nicholas Mirzoeff, An Introduction to Visual Culture (London: Routledge, 1999), p. 4.

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17 carved ivory containers di scussed here, are the location of ma nufacture and reinforcement of the reality of such intangible con cepts. The Afro-Portuguese ivories represent an ideal case to study the operation of these concepts in action. Nicholas Mirzoeff, a visual culture theorist considers the visual conceptualization of everyday life to be at the cente r of understanding cultu re in the postmodern world. He describes the conditions of modern life as essentially visual manifestat ions of the constant swirl of the global village.16 Though he writes from a decidedly postmodern, Euro-American perspective, his allusion to the global village is a reference to the modern era, presuming that as the world became more globalized through technologies of communication and transportation, the perception of the world as a vast unknowable sphe re shrinks to one of short distances and many merging fields of vision. As the Portuguese seafarers and coastal African people they encountered gained access to their own early modern global village, they found ways to materialize their experiences, one of which was the cooperative creation of carved ivory objects for export. Many details of the Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories, Suzanne Blier proposes, offer tantalizing suggestions of what could be at once read as Portuguese desi re for exotica and as coastal West Africans visual interpretation of to their own world and their relationship to their foreign patrons. Perhaps Bliers call for a rejuve nation of the study of Afro-Portuguese ivories can best be accomplished through a visual culture fr amework rather than a st rictly art historical one. Claire Farago, in her 1995 collection of essays, Reframing the Renaissance: Visual Culture in Europe and Latin America 1450-1650, calls for a new program of study of Renaissance art 16 Mirzoeff, Introduction to Visual Culture p. 1.

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18 focused on the migration of visual cu lture and the conditions of reception.17 Like Bliers call to historians of African art, Faragos is an appeal for historians of early modern Europe to join the interdisciplinary debates of visual cultural studies. Because the Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories are African innovations resulting di rectly from the period of first direct and sustained interaction with Europeans, they provide a means of an swering both calls for re-examination at once. Notably, the objects themselves are the most re liable and tangible record of the brief moment just before the period of the cross-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism. At a time before the notions of culture, tradition, and authen ticity carried the overwhelmingly heavy sociopolitical baggage that they do in the postmodern, post-colonial age, the Afro-Portuguese ivories represent some of the first visual documents upon which modern scholars can base further understanding of how the pres ent period of widespread transcultural exchange began.18 Because of their hybrid origin and style, these objects have until relatively recently been excluded from the study of African art history, wh ich until the midto late-twentieth century concerned itself mainly with sculpture made for traditional indigenous use. As issues of hybridity and globalization have become centr al to the study of art histor y, and particularly contemporary African art, the reexamination of these early examples of hybridized, globalized art can shed light on the current art historical moment. The Afro-Portuguese ivories can now be seen as paradigmatic for the early development of museology, cultural anthropology, an d art history as humanist disciplines. Just as Drer incorrectly attributed his ivory salt cellars, scholars continue to grapple no t only with the ivories identities but also inte rrelated issues of culture, traditi on, and authenticity that surround 17 Claire Farago, ed., Reframing the Renaissance: Visual culture in Europe and Latin America, 1450-1650 ( New Haven and London, 1995), p. 2. 18 Susan Vogel, Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory, African Arts 22:2 (Feb. 1989): 89. Vogel introduces the notion of these objects as documents of an era.

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19 these objects. The focus here will be to bring a provocative new examplea heretofore unrecorded salt cellarinto the corpus of Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories, and to fill out the larger context of the transcultural transmission of finely carved ivory sculptures made by African artists, exported by the Portugue se, and eventually disseminated to collections throughout the world. Anthropologist Arjun Appadurai proposes that value is embodied in commodities that are exchanged commodities, like persons, have social lives.19 The following chapters will follow the social life of the highly-valued Sierra Le one-Portuguese ivories. Chapter 2 addresses the historical moment and the c onditions surrounding th e conception and first exchange of the ivories from both the Portuguese perspective and the African. Because the ivories are simultaneously and inherently from Sierra Leon e, Portugal, and somewh ere between cultures and continents, it is wise to choose multiple cultural perspectives (or at least speculate about and consider their impact) and not limit the study to an either/or, us/them approach as has been a tendency in past research. A cl ose reading of the population of lanados or those who cast themselves away20 from Portugal to settle on mainland We st Africa, brings an element that was both Portuguese and African, he nce creating new cultural identities much like the ivories themselves. An examination of the history of African ivory (and by exte nsion, elephants) as a prestige material for both Africans and Europ eans is followed by a summary of the only known group of objects, soapstone, wooden, and clay figurative sculptures made roughly contemporaneously for local ownership (Figures 11 through 13). The nomoli and pomtan, as the figures are called by the people who live in the ar ea today, are one of the only indigenous forms 19 Arjun Appadurai, ed., The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 3. 20 From the Portuguese reflexive verb, se-lanar: to cast, throw, launch oneself, in Curnow, The Afro-Portuguese Ivories, p. 71, note 24.

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20 that we have to compare to the ivories a nd are therefore important in the speculative reconstruction of their African pers pective. Chapter 2 closes with a general discussion of African and Portuguese aesthetic values and the specific conditions su rrounding them and the functions of their forms as both utilita rian objects and transcultural aesthetic emblems. Chapter 3 examines the social lives of the i vories once they were exchanged out of their original context of creation (A frica, by way of Portugal), and into the global collecting and academic markets. The problems of lost records, misattribution, a nd eventual integration into the field of African art history (as opposed to the al ternative being forgotten in a nebulous past), despite or perhaps because of their inherently multicultural character, demonstrates the changing attitudes toward these ivories. The chapter concl udes with an overview of exhibitions that have included the Afro-Portuguese ivories and the ways a nd contexts in which they have been situated in these exhibitions. The public e xposure generated by these exhibitions indicates public interest in this early moment of the globalization. A fourth chapter that examines two specific sa lt cellars from Sierra Leone, one well-known (Figure 1), the other the newest addition to th e corpus (Figure 14), will provide a means of reading the social life of the iv ories as a group and illuminate them as the embodiment of their transcultural conception, transport, and negotiation through space, time and social circles. Both salt cellars described here exemplify the c ooperation between patron and artist, merging Portuguese and African cultural iden tities, while remaining as two ex amples of the only material records of this long-past and brie fly synchronistic collaboration.

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21 CHAPTER 2 HISTORY OF THE SIERRA LEONE-PORTUGUESE IVORIES Historical Circumstances of the Ivories Creation The ivory sculptures carved by African artist s living on the coast of what is now Sierra Leone for Portuguese patrons between the 1490s and the m id-1500s1 occupy a gray area between local and global markets and cultur es at a crucial moment in hist ory, the reverberations of which are still felt today. The Sierra Le one-Portuguese ivories ar e the sole concrete visual evidence of a brief but significant moment in proto-colonial world history. At this time Europeans, experiencing what is popularly known as the Renaissance, (a renewed interest in Classical Roman and Greek cultural ideals an d humanistic inquiry th at began in Italy and quickly spread to other parts of Europe) began exploring the po ssibilities for imperial, economic, and cultural growth, with Portugal taking an early lead in the nascent proc ess of large-scale maritime exploration. In 1462, Portuguese seafarers first traveled to the western coast of Africa and disembarked on the coast of what is now Sierra Leone. At th is time, Portugal was beginning its ascent as a leading economic power in Europe, and exploration of and trade with distant lands and peoples supported its economic and political agenda. Portuga l sought gold and spices initially, and when they found ivory in greater abundance on the Guinea coast around Sierra Leone, they took advantage of the opportunity. Another commodity sought by Africans and Europeans alike at that time was labor. African rulers with w hom the Portuguese established diplomatic relationships, and traded in a variety of goods, including slav es (either criminals or war prisoners), carved and uncarved ivory, and gold th ey obtained from the Futa Djallon region in exchange for luxury goods such as cotton clot h, copper and copper alloys. Over the following 1 See Curnow, The Afro-Portuguese Iv ories, ch. 4 and Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance p. 145.

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22 eighty to ninety years, and perhaps into the ea rly seventeenth century, the Portuguese engaged in trade of various commodities with people whom they called the Kingdom of the Sapes. It is unknown precisely who these people were, however, most scholars agree that they were the ancestors of modern-day Temne, Bullom (w ho lived on Sherbro Island and the surrounding mainland coasts), and possibly Baga (who were pr obably located further north than the others and were never mentioned as ivory carvers) and Kissi (who may have been located further inland, beyond the coastal areas where the Portu guese ventured). Additionally, the Portuguese probably misinterpreted the nature of the social and political situa tion in this area, which was not a kingdom in the European sens e, but rather a series of chiefdoms or lineages united by a common culture and several languages and dialects2 During the sixteenth century, partially as a result of either sudden or gradual encroachme nts of inland people whom the Portuguese called the Manes or Manis, the earlier populations of coastal Sierra Leone were disrupted and their trade systems with the Portuguese were transfor med, possibly contributing to the end of ivory carving for foreign markets. 3 Another pivotal factor that contributed to the end of production of both the soapstone figures and the export ivory sculpture was the wa ning of Portuguese economic power as Spains global reach extended with the discovery of the Americas. Portugal moved further south and east toward the kingdoms of Benin, Kongo, and furthe r around the continent to the Indian Ocean in search of further economic advantage. The consolidated networks of indigenous power the 2 Joseph Ki-Zerbo and Djibril Tasmir Niane, eds ., General History of Africa: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century vol. IV, abridged edition, (Paris: UNESCO, 1997), p. 119. 3 Ki-Zerbo and Niane, eds. General History of Africa: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century vol. IV, pp. 118-127; B.A. Ogot, ed., General History of Africa: Africa from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century, vol. V, abridged edition (Paris: UNESCO, 1999) pp. 193-198; Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance, p. 61; Blier, Imaging Otherness in Ivory, 390; Curnow, Alien or Accepted, 39; Freder ick J. Lamp, Ancient Wood Figures from Sierra Leone, African Arts 23(2) (April 1990): 54-55; Lamp, House of Stones: Memorial Art of FifteenthCentury Sierra Leone, The Art Bulletin 65(2) (June 1983): 230-231; W.A. Hart and Christopher Fyfe, The Stone Sculptures of the Upper Guinea Coast, History in Africa 20 (1993): 84.

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23 Portuguese later encountered in these areas were better able to meet the growing demand for slaves, first in Europe and increasingly in th e Americas as Spain a nd England expanded their colonial industries and the need for cheap labo r grew. Some cite the trade in raw, unworked ivory as a catalyst for and contributor to the major rise in the quickly expanding (and ultimately devastating) slave trade. Ivory tusks were often transported to the coast by individuals captured for enslavement from the inland hinterland fore sts where both the ivory and slaves were collected. Both the raw ivory and the enslaved Africans were destined for circulation in the cross-continental economies of European empire building. These two commodities played a part in furthering both European, and (to a more local ized extent) African prog rams of imperialism, nationalism and mercantilism.4 Peter Mark attributes the end of export ivory carving, which he estimates to have been in the early seventeenth century, to the influx of African ivory in European markets and also the over-hunting of the largest elepha nts, which would have restrict ed ivory carving to small tusks from small elephants. Mark asserts that small tu sks would have been especially limiting for the production of salt cellars [which were carved from the solid narro wer sections of large tusks]. Since no mention of ivory saleiros appears in early seventeenth Portuguese documentation, Mark concludes that their pr oduction must have ended sometime before 1600, but could have gone past c. 1530, the date proposed by Bassani and Fagg, and c. 1550, the date proposed by Curnow.5 4 Doran H. Ross, ed., Elephant: The Animal and Its Ivory in African Culture (Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History and University of California, 1992), p. 39. 5 Peter Mark, Towards a Reassessment of the Dating and the Geographical Origins of the Luso-African Ivories, Fifteenth to Seventeenth Centuries, History in Africa 34 (2007): 195 and 203.

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24 Why the Sierra Leone-Portuguese Ivories Are Not Tourist Art Not only did Portuguese global exploration aim for economic and political power of the royal house of Aviz, but it also resulted in a smaller scale exchange of cultural goods. The problematic term tourist art has often been used in association with the Afro-Portuguese ivories.6 If we followed Nelson Graburns framew ork, the Afro-Portuguese ivories would occupy a space in what he called societies of th e fourth world, minority societies that occupy interstitial spaces within firs t world (i.e. Western) systems.7 This is a useful idea, but though the terms fourth world and tourist art implies infe riority and undermines the cultural value of the people and objects associated with such labels. By referring to minority societies as fourth world, Graburn conforms to the social hi erarchy implied by such well known social constructions as first (i.e. industrialized and civilized) and third (i.e. underdeveloped) world countries. Furthermore, as Curnow points out, the Portugue se did not travel to Africa for leisurely vacation (the concept of vacation as defined in modern terms did not exist yet) but for commerce, therefore, tourist art is ill-favored because it has, to art historians at least, a pejorative meaning; tourist art ha s been perceived as being of inferior quality and somehow a bastardization of pure art. Travelers art would perhaps solve the nomenclature problem 8 This is still a problematic term since it denies the (non-traveling) produc ers a role, although they were participants in the decisi on to export their wares. Nevert heless, European elite cultural 6 Fagg 1959 uses tourist art somewhat uncritically on p. xviii; Bassani and Fagg, African and the Renaissance, p. 57 reject the term and cite turistenkunst given as labe ls in certain [unnamed] Germ an museums; also see Fiona Fiona St Aubyn, ed., Ivory: An International History and Illustrated Survey (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1987), p. 172. 7 Nelson H. Graburn, Introduction: Arts of the Fourth World, in Ethnic and Tourist Arts: Cultural Expressions from the Fourth World ed. Graburn, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 1-37. 8 Curnow, The Afro-Portuguese Ivories, p. 5.

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25 interest in the first travelers art from Africa to enter the global ma rket of collecting were directed toward these ivory carvings of the highest quality material, craftsmanship, and innovation of form. In any case, perhaps a better way to label art made for foreign audiences by local artists would be traveling art. This places the active descript or on the art object itself, rather than limiting it to just the producer or consumer and avoids the ne gative connotations of tourist or fourth world art. Collecting in Early Modern Europe Som e of the earliest European de stinations for these art objects from distant lands were the Kunst and Wunderkammern, precursors to modern museum collections. They were collections of natural and man-made objects assembled during the ea rly modern era of humanistic inquiry not only by European nobility, but also by the we althier bourgeoisie whose social status was rising due to their increasing material wea lth and access to intellectual social circles.9 Wunderkammer collections were early modern attempts represent a microcosm of Gods universe.10 Anything that was deemed to embody the m arvelous aesthetic, or anything that lay outside the ordinary, was collected, categori zed, and displayed for the insight that could be gained from such groupings of objects, as well as for the benefit of guest s visiting ones private collection.11 These early elaborate collections were of course not open to the general p ublic, but the display of valuable and wondrous things (to use Drers word) by European elites for their peers was central to reinforcing the social positi on both of the practice of collecting and of the 9 Joy Kenseth, ed, The Age of the Marvelous (Hanover, NH: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), p. 247. 10 Kenseth, The Age of the Marvelous p. 247. 11 Kenseth, The Age of the Marvelous p. 25.

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26 practitioners themselves. Objects were categor ized under the headings of supernatural, natural, and artificial (i.e. manmade).12 The Afro-Portuguese ivories embodied for Europeans numerous attributes of the marvelous, a multifaceted quality for which humanists strove in collecting natural and manmade objects: the substance of ivory as a rare and natural material carved by virtuoso foreign hands resu lted in surprisingly unexpected and exotic designs.13 The mutual cultural curios ity and economic symbiosis that characterized the first encounter between coastal Africans and Portugu ese patrons, and perhaps their Luso-African negotiators, the lanados could also have been thought of as surprisingly unexpected and marvelous. Both the coastal African societies and Portuguese lanados were surprisingly amenable to and actively interest ed in interacting, tr ading, and developing la sting relationships with one another, which contrasts with later relationships between colonizing Europeans and the African populations they tried to subjugate. African ivories were included in collections of Portuguese and Spanish aristocracies, the Medici family, Albrecht Drer, a nd the Elector of Saxony in Dresden.14 The spread of trade in African carved ivories from Sierra Leone, then Po rtugal, and finally to Spain, Italy, and northern Europe indicates the broad exotic appeal foreign artworks had in th ese elite circles. The story of how they have been understood and misunderstood in academic literature will be discussed in Chapter 3. The Salt Cellar as a Signifier of High Social Status in European Culture Cast gold, silver, and gem stone decorated salt cellars, ornate and scul ptural containers for salt, were used as centerpieces on tables of European princes and kings. Salt was a precious 12 Kenseth, The Age of the Marvelous pp. 31-39. 13 Joy Kenseth, The Age of the Marvelous: An Introduction, in The Age of the Marvelous Kenseth ed, pp. 25-59. 14 Blier, Imaging Otherness, p. 375.

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27 commodity and acquisition of it a prime economic agenda for both existin g West African trade networks and European empires alike, including the Portuguese. The often-cited Cellini salt cellar (Figure 15) cast in gold, made between 154 3 and 1544, represents an apex of both artistic virtuosity and grand positioning of salt on the tables of nobility (in this case, Frances King Francis I). Benvenuto Cellini was an artist con cerned with self-promotion and a burgeoning cult of personality growing around artists as si ngular authors or inventors of objects.15 Conversely, the Afro-Portuguese salt cellars of Sierra Le one created during roughly the same period leave few traces of authorship, though it is not clear that at the time whether there was a focus on the individual artists. There are numerous reasons for the lack of written documentation of authorship, the main reason bei ng that African artists worked totally outside the European system of artistic production. R ecording written accounts of their own work as European artists such as Cellini and Drer did was not an element of their artistic practice. Additionally, the Portuguese vi sitors, who did have means of written documentation, either chose not to take detailed account of who made specific works and how they were made or lost them in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which destr oyed all customs records from the era except one ledger recording imports from Africa between 1504 and 1505. 16 Based on the fact that the ivories existed in some of Europes most elite collections, intermingled without distinction from exotica collected from ot her locations, it may have been enough for the first European collectors that they were made in exotic lands and acted as signifiers of contact and possessi on of prestige objects from afar Early art historical inquiry joined hands with early collecting practices to simultaneously seek individual authorship in 15 See Benvenuto Cellini, Autobiography trans. George Bull (London: Penguin Books, 1998); Lisa Pon, Cellini and the Principles of Sculpture, Apollo 159 (March 2004): 62-63. 16 A.C.F. Ryder, A Note on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories, The Journal of African History 5:3 (1964): 363.

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28 works they identified as European, while works of exotica were relegated to anonymity from the outset. Lanados : Those Who Thre w Themselves Among Africans The lanados were Portuguese men who settled on the coast and assimilated into the culture despite a Portuguese law ag ainst settling on mainland Africa intended to preserve royal monopoly of trade. The derogatory name, lanado, is a past participle from the Portuguese verb se lanar to cast oneself away. Lanados were a mediating factor between transcontinental Portuguese traders and indigenous African artists as well as being traders themselves. Portuguese settled legally on the islands of Cape Verde, which they found to be uninhabited, and mediated trade between indige nous people on the mainland and Portuguese traveling expeditions for some time; many of the lanados had originally lived in Cape Verde or were related in some way to Cape Ve rdean settlers or their descendants.17 The law against mainland settlement reflected the concern to put a halt to the activities of the lanados who reached agreements with the African rulers to settle on the mainland, adopt local customs, and set up as independent traders.18 In the interest of greater economic opportunity and independence from Portuguese taxation, lanados settled permanently on the coast, were initiated into indigenous secret societie s, and married influential local women.19 Hence, they generated a new multiracial population segment w ho spoke both Portuguese and local languages, adorned themselves with both Euro pean dress and African scarific ation patterns, and were thus 17 Antnio Carreira, The People of the Cape Verde Islands: Exploitation and Emigration trans. and ed. Christopher Fyfe (London: C. Hurst; Hamden, CT Archon Books, 1982), p. 4. 18 Ki-Zerbo and Niane, eds., General History of Africa: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century p. 127. 19 George E. Brooks, The Signares: Entrepreneurial African Women, in Problems in African History: The Precolonial Centuries 3rd ed., ed. Robert O. Collins (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2005), p. 213.

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29 ostensibly able to operate comfortably between indigenous artists and the Portuguese travelers who commissioned the ivories for export. 20 Were the lanados motivations for breaking the Po rtuguese law and becoming literally outlaws purely economic? Or were there social and political factors as well? Some have cited religious persecution as a motiva ting factor to leave Portugal be hind forever: And it was true that many of the lanados came from the fringes of society, es pecially the new Christians, the Jews who had been converted by force.21 This would explain the ambivalence of Portuguese enforcement of the law: on the one hand they did not want trade competition hindering their profits, but on the other hand the Portuguese authorities (and the I nquisition in both Portugal and Spain) had no desire to allow unt rue Christians to remain in Port ugal. No official records of the lanados were kept in official Port uguese accounts, or anywhere else, an indication that the Portuguese did not want officially to acknowledg e their activities or ev en their existence. Labelle Prussin recently published significant research on Jewish c ontributions to the traditional arts of west Africa, and the lanados though not specifically me ntioned in her article, could very well play a pi votal role in that story as well. Pr ussin discusses the early records of Muslim intellectuals, such as Leo Africanus, as well as various Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, and British pre-colonial and colonial accounts of coastal settlements of Jewish and New Christian traders. New Christians were peopl e of Jewish descent whose ancestors, or who themselves converted to Catholicism in an attempt to avoid persecution. She notes the complex, diverse, and paradoxical ro les fulfilled by Jews in their relations with local rulers on 20 Blier, Imaging Otherness, p. 391; Kathy Curnow, "Obe rlin's Sierra Leonean Saltcellar: Documenting Bicultural Dialogue," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 44 (1991):13-14. 21 Ki-Zerbo and Niane, General History of Africa: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century p. 127.

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30 the West African coast.22 The fact that the lanados were literally outca sts in the eyes of Portuguese officials leads one to th e possibility that at least some of them were driven to settle on the African coast not only for the adventure and trade opportuni ties, but also because they were literally cast out of Portugal by the forces of the Inquisition in Europe. Were they willingly moving toward an opportunity for a new life after being expelled from their old one in Portugal? To what extent did the Portuguese who commissioned the ivories inte ract directly with African artists? To what extent did the lanados act as intermediaries between the traveling Portuguese and their adopted cultur es? Blier asserts that the uniform rendering of facial types of both Africans and Portuguese, especi ally as they appear in three dimensions on the salt cellars, indicates that the artists had littl e or no direct contact with Europ eans and therefore little point of reference for comparing or contrast ing Caucasoid and Negroid features.23 Conversely, perhaps the artists did have more contact with Portuguese, as Curnow believes,24 but did not perceive major facial differences, thereby making th e Portuguese appear more like themselves. Regardless, it is not possible to determine preci sely how the Portuguese and Africans did or did not interact during this period wit hout oral or written histories. Such a vast period of time has elapsed as to make it virtually impossible to reconstruct living conditions on the coast. The presence of the lanados make close personal contact and conf lation of cultural signifiers at least more possible than it was in Kongo or Benin, adding a layer of tant alizing transcultural possibilities to the production of Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories. 22 Labelle Prussin, Judaic Threads in the West African Tapestry: No More Forever? Art Bulletin 88(2) (June 2006): 330-331. 23 Blier, Imaging Otherness, p. 390. 24 Curnow, Alien or Accepted, p. 40.

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31 The History of Ivory as a Presti g e Material: Africa and Europe While elephants are found in both Asia and Afri ca, the tusks of the African elephant have historically been the most desira ble due to their significantly larger size, harder texture, and purer white color.25 Monumental chryselephantine (gold and i vory) sculpture was a specialty of the fifth century BCE Greek architect of the Parthenon, Phidias. His thirty nine -foot statue of Athena Parthenos, for which the temple bearing her name was built, was so impressi ve and precious that it has remained one of his most famous works despite destroyed in antiquity.26 The contraction of trade networks for African ivory that have long been in place are described by Doran Ross: Roman records document the lavish use of ivory in the classical era. It was this appetite for ivory that ultimately led to the extinction of the elephant in North African by late Roman times. Thus with the ex ception of small quantities trad ed from Ethiopia, southern Sudan, and parts of Somalia, [elephant] ivory was relatively unavailab le in Europe for a period of roughly a thousand years, until the Po rtuguese explorations down the west coast of Africa.27 Contemporaneous with the Greeks and Romans was the Nok culture (c.500 BCE-200 CE) of northern Nigeria, where a small (7 inches ) ceramic elephants head has been found.28 Just as Sierra Leones stone figures were mostly found without archaeological c ontext in more recent times, so was this ceramic head. Despite this loss of contextual information, its existence indicates the elephants impor tance to one of the West Af ricas earliest civilizations. The morphology of elephant ivory is uniquely suited for especially minute and intricate carving. Shoshani explains the reasons in detail: 25 Curnow, The Afro-Portuguese Ivories, pp. 24-25; Doran H. Ross, Imagining Elephants: An Overview, in Elephant: The Animal and Its Ivory in African Culture ed. Ross (Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA, 1992), p. 39; Peter Barnet, Gothic Sculpture in Ivory: An Introduction, in Images in Ivory: Precious Objects of the Gothic Age ed. Barnet (Princeton, NJ: Detroit Institute of Arts and Princeton Un iversity Press, 1997), pp. 3-5. 26 St Aubyn, ed., Ivory: An International History p. 44-45. 27 Ross, Imagining Elephants, p.7. 28 Ross, Imagining Elephants, p. 8-9.

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32 In cross section, a tusk exhibits a pattern of lines that inte rsect each other to form small diamond-shaped areas visible with the naked eye This pattern has been called engine turning and is unique to [ele phants] For example, the i vory from western and central Africa is considered the best of all ivories because it is th e hardest yet very elastic, and thus more suitable for carving than that of the Bush African or the Asian.29 Because of the coveted physical properties of th e West African ivory the observed for the first time in such wondrous quantity, it is no wonder th at as Europeans gained naval access to the direct source of the material, they seized th e opportunity. Europeans were not the only people who valued elephant ivory; Afri cans who inhabited the same areas as the elephants valued ivory not just for its hardness, colo r, and luster, [but also] for its obvious identification with the elephant, [which] has been the prerogative of chieftaincy or leadership in many parts of Africa.30 Of the Temne, Fernandes says And if they kill an elephant or buffalo they send them to the king who eats them with the elders of the village before the idol.31 Fernandes did not mention the tusks of the elephant but it can be inferred that th ey could have also been the prerogative of the elite class for the Temne as well. Material culture among the interrelated groups in this coastal trading area could have shared many values, including the use of elephant ivory in association with the elite. Wealth, presti ge, and social status are dynamic ideas defined by cultural context; visual and material manifesta tions of these ideas rein force their reality. Thus, all the carved Afro-Portuguese ivories inhe rently visually and materially embody the intangibleness of both African and European social status through their prec ious material alone. By the sixteenth century and be yond, unfortunately more ivory was exported from the continent 29 Jeheskel Shohani, The African Elephant in Its Environment in Elephant: The Animal and Its Ivory in African Culture, ed. Doran H. Ross (Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History and University of California, 1992), p. 47. 30 Ross, Imagining Elephants, p. 23. 31 Fernandes translated in Christopher Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance. (London: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 24.

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33 than was ever used by Africans themselves The standard practice was to use slaves [as porters to carry ivory from the interior] that could be sold upon reaching the coast.32 For Europeans, ivory has long been a rare and valued material for carving. Ivory was a favorite material of the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean, and its popularity continued in Roman art and in the art of Byzantium.33 Furthermore, as Kessler states: like gold, bronze, and porphyry, ivory also retained political c onnotations through its sumptuousness and history in imperial servic e; and, although much ivory was delicately polychromed and, as in antiquity, detailed in gold, it conveyed fleshiness and invited handling. For those reasons, it was often used to portray Christ Many materials were selected because they seemed, in their very nature, to negotiate between the world of matter and the world of spirit (gold, gems, and glass, for instance), which were continuously being transformed in changing light.34 The African ivory carvings discussed here would have conformed to these spiritual attitudes of Europeans toward the material of ivory, as well as to expectations imposed in some of the decorative programs, such as scenes from books of hours, crosses, and biblical motifs. The Sierra Leone artists may have also held attitudes equa ting the material of elephant ivory with the spiritual power of the elephant itself. Sculptural Production in Sierra Leone for Local Markets: Soapstone, Wood, and Clay Following Faggs initial hypothesis, the m ost often-cited indige nous sources or are steatite figures called nomoli by modern Mende who find them buried in the ground along the coast (Figure 11) and also called pomtan by the modern Kissi and Temne, which have been unearthed further inland.35 The Portuguese recognized the technical sk ill of indigenous artists. Little 32 Ross, Imagining Elephants, p. 39. 33 Peter Barnet, Gothic Sculpture in Ivory: An Introduction, Images in Ivory: Precious Objects of the Gothic Age ed. Peter Barnet (Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts 1997), p. 3. 34 Herbert L. Kessler, Seeing Medieval Art (Ontario: Broadview Press, 2004), p. 27-29. 35 Fagg, Afro-Portuguese Ivories p. xx; Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance p. 44; Curnow, Alien or Accepted, p. 40; Lamp, Ancient Wood Fi gures from Sierra Leone, pp. 54-55.

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34 remains, however, either physically or in written accounts, of the objects in which the Portuguese first observed African artists f acility and aesthetic merit. While they commissioned works in ivory were brought to Europe and preserved in collections, purely indigenous art forms were not. Contemporaneous objects made of wood and cl ay are now known, but they have been also accidentally discovered and only occasionally excavated archaeologically. Thus, much contextual information is lost. Valentim Fernandes, who wrote of his encounters with coastal people between 1506 and 1510, mentioned the pr esence of wood, ceramic, stone and ivory carvings, mostly referred to as idols.36 Fernandes, who was not a lanado and, therefore, perhaps had little or no insider knowledge to allow for more nuanced analysis, does allude extensively to pre-existing ar tistic practices in the area.37 The exact purpose, appearance, style, and context of these art forms remain a mystery. Artworks in wood and ceramics, especially, have eroded and broken over time due to the relative fragility of materials.38 While no ivory pieces from th is historical period made for indigenous use have been found exta nt within this region of West Africa itself, a few horns with side-blown mouthpieces have been found cen turies later in European collections.39 Unfortunately, the Lisbon earthquake obliterated any further clues about the possible indigenous ivory horn prototypes for th e oliphants made for export.40 Therefore, it is difficult if not impossible to ascertain if any iconographic elemen ts may have been tran sferred to the ivories 36 Christopher Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance, pp. 22-30. 37 Fernandes, Description de la Cte Occidentale dAfrique pp. 68-105. 38 See Lamp, House of Stones, and Ancient Wood Figures from Sierra Leone. 39 See Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance cat. no. 201. 40 A.C.F. Ryder, A Note on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories, p. 363.

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35 made for export from works made for indigenou s use, such as soapstone, wooden, and clay figures. The figures on the ivories, especially the unde rcut, fully three-dimensional figures on the salt cellars, bear facial simila rities with the soapstone figures. Figures in both media have distinctively bulbous eyes, widely flared nostrils, and full lips. Presumably, motifs such as snakes, crocodiles, birds, and nude women are al so locally derived, although the precise message they convey is impossible to determine conclu sively. A Sierra Leone horn at the Muse de lHomme (now the Muse du Quai Branly) bears a side-blown mouthpiece, a figure seated on the narrow end, and crocodiles carved along the wide r end with no recognizable European motifs.41 This horn could have been made in a purely local style and could represen t one of the only ivory examples to which we can refer for recognizably African motifs. Suzanne Preston Blier proposes several tentativ e possibilities for determining the meanings of other African-derived motifs.42 Throughout West Africa in general, snakes have represented messengers between the human and spirit real ms and their downward dangling positions on many of the salt cellars could i ndicate that similar iconography could have a similar meaning or intention in the ivories.43 Crocodiles also carry widespread symbolism: they are powerful amphibious predators and could play a similar role as the snakes, especially on the lid of a salt cellar which depicts crocodiles devouring nude women.44 This type of motif is not characteristic of portrayals of human re lationships to nature in European depictions. 41 Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance cat. no. 201. 42 See Blier, Imaging Otherness. 43 Blier, Imaging Otherness, 393. 44 See Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance cat. no. 32.

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36 Cross-Continental Aesthetic Migr ations: Collaborative Efforts Portuguese visitors began comm issioning ivory carvings from African artists working in what scholars have assum ed to be pre-existi ng canons which the Port uguese patrons and the aristocratic Europeans who la ter owned them appreciated th em for their sophisticated technicality and exotic visual appeal. What ex actly these pre-existing ivory carvings made for local use looked like is unknown since none are extant. Among the forms that the Portuguese requested were salt cellars, oliphants, pyxes, and eating utensils such as spoons and forks. Each of these forms was readily recognized in a European context as a signifier of elite social an d economic status that ar e at once decorative and ostensibly utilitarian in functi on. The salt cellars with flared ba ses closely resemble European lidded metal cups (Figure 16), but the porosity of the ivory and delic ate projections that comprise the decorative programs on the salt cellars preclude their practical use as containers for drinking liquids (Figure 17). For African ar tists, perhaps they were little more than novel forms made to cater to a new and lucrative market. Conversely, Grottanelli hypothesizes that the form of salt cellars such as one at the L. Pigorini Museum in Rome (Figure 1), for example, predate the arrival of the Portuguese, and in fact could confor m to a genuine tradition rather than a novel hybrid style based on their stylis tic difference from the struct ures, material, and general conception of other European salt cellars.45 If Vogel is correct in her assertion that this shape is related to a gourd or ceramic vessel atop a cylindrical pedest al construction common in many West African cultures, then perhaps the skilled maneuvering of ivory into complex vessels did in fact pre-date the arri val of the Portuguese.46 45 Vinigi L. Grottanelli, Discovery of a Masterpiece: A Sixteenth-Century Ivory Bowl from Sierra Leone, African Arts 8 (Summer 1975): p. 23. 46 Vogel, Introduction, in Africa and the Renaissance pp. 14-15.

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37 Oliphants, or hunting horns, were also presti ge items for Europeans. As Bassani and Fagg discuss in their 1988 catalogue, horns were used by Europeans during hunts to signal to the rest of the party that the prey had been killed. 47 The images carved in relief on the sides of the African oliphants depict hunti ng scenes, including men in Eu ropean dress with European weapons and usually stags as prey among verdan t settings. Bassani and Fagg present several highly convincing visual comparisons between hu nting scenes from the margins of books of hours and the adornment of several of the olipha nts. In the transfer from twoto threedimensional rendering, carvers seem to have elim inated the illusion of receding space in the prints in favor of stylized leaves and branches and uniform stippling of figures rather than stippling and hatching as a shading device in the prints (Figures 18 and 19). Additional European motifs that appear on oliphants ar e those related to Portuguese (and sometimes Spanish) heraldry: coats of arms armillary spheres (a navigati onal tool appropriated into the personal coat of arms of Manuel I), a nd textual mottoes (Figures 20 and 21). Another form, the pyx, was used as a ritual box for holding the Eucharist. Intricately decorated surfaces and precious materials used to construct these boxes reinforced and made visible the Churchs authority and prestige as well as the Eucharists holy status as a Catholic ritual substance. The surface desi gns of the cylindrical ivory pyxes mainly pertain to liturgical scenes, again derived from European imagery. For example, one of the pxyes is densely carved with the Tree of Jesse, which depicts the bib lical genealogy of Jesus Christ (Figure 22), a metaphor for the militant and triumphant Church, the model for which can be closely compared with the Tree of Jesse print from the book prin ted in France in the la te fifteenth century, Horae 47 Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance p. 98, fig. 108.

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38 Beatae Mariae Virginis (Figure 23).48 Perhaps the commissioning of these religious scenes on foreign art created in distant lands signified for th e receivers of the gifts in Europe a spreading of the influence of Christianity th roughout the world and affirmation of its righteousness. What this imagery signified for African ar tists is impossible to know. Judging by the strong affinity between Europ ean printed material and the iconography on the ivories, and the fragmentary firstor second-hand written accounts of Portuguese authors such as Valentim Fernandes, Duarte Pacheco Pereira, and Andr Alva res dAlmada, it appears that many of these works were commissioned dire ctly by the Portuguese explicitly for export. Bassani and Fagg have hypothesized that during periods when Po rtuguese visitors were not present, African artists produced works to keep in stock based on previous designs as well as on innovations and motifs drawn from their pre-existing repertoire.49 This may explain why some works (Figures 1 and 17) bear little or no recognizable European imagery.50 These objects might have demonstrated that the artists could anticipa te what would sell to th e Portuguese traders and possibly how far they could stray from the pr escribed body of models provided to them. Could the variety of surface decorations indica te a varying market and different segments of collectors in Europe? Certainly, pyxes decorated with relief carvings of biblical motifs (Figure 2) were meant for and could have been gifted to officials of the church in a formal setting. Others, such as certain salt cell ars that depict nude exotic women (Figures 1, 14, and 17), may indicate a niche market of aristocratic Europ ean gentlemen who may have perceived and enjoyed tantalizing and bawdy imagery in the privacy of their collection rooms. Prints of displaying 48 Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance pp. 114-115. 49 Blier, Imaging Otherness, passim; Curnow, Alien or Accepted, p. 39; Lamp, House of Stones, passim. 50 Ezio Bassani, African Art and Artefacts in European Collections 1400-1800, (London: The British Museum Press, 2000), p. 287.

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39 explicit scatological and sexual humor were quite popular in Italian a nd northern European aristocratic humanist circles, a nd artworks from exotic lands with explicit motifs could have held a similar, if not even more exot ic and tantalizing appeal. Landau and Parshall discuss this early modern niche market: A deepening obsession with remote occurrences was a feature of sixteenth-century life.51 They further assert that, the priv ate enjoyment of prints also helped proliferate another genre of images: th e erotic, sometimes pornographic, subject.52 Who knows whether the nudity of female figures, and partic ularly the graphic nude detail of Figure 24, was created to express local attitudes toward female nudity or with awareness of the circulation of erotic printed imagery so popul ar in Europe at the time? Since European iconographic sources are identifiable, they have been a focus for speculation on artistic processes be hind the ivories. Most scholars agree that many of the motifs that appear to be non-African (such as stag hunting scenes, bi blical iconography, and heraldic symbols) appear to have been transferred thr ough printed materials that the Portuguese brought with them.53 At this time in Europe, the printing en terprise was expanding such that ownership of books was no longer only the prerogative of the elite or clergy. Perhaps many of the travelers and some of the lanados owned prayer books, known as books of hours, which contained both text and small woodblock prints along the margins. These images resemble almost precisely some of the imagery on the ivories, especially on the oliphants. For example, Ezio Bassani and W. Fagg identify a book of hours originally printed in France by Philippe Pigouchet for the publisher Simon Vostre, Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis which contains hunting scenes almost 51 David Landau and Peter W. Parshall, The Renaissance Print 1470-1550 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 240. 52 Landau and Parshall, The Renaissance Print p. 297. 53 Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance pp. 111-121; Curnow, Alien or Accepted, p. 39.

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40 identical in composition and figural positioning to hunting scenes on several of the extant oliphants (Figures 18 and 19).54 Bassani has subsequently pub lished extensively on printed sources for Sierra Leone ivory designs.55 Based on his numerous and varied comparisons of prints and ivories, it is now virtually irrefutable that African artists had some visual reference for images conceived and printed originally in Europe. It is not clear precisely how these images were conveyed to African artists as models. In Europe during this era, the circulation of prin ts provided the most important and common means for the transmission of artistic ideas, and producing expendable copies of printed images to supply as models for foreign artists is entirely plausible. Certainly, books were not expendable and easily replaceable at this point, and commi ssioning individuals would probably not agree to part with their books to leave with foreign ar tists. Bassani and Fagg have hypothesized that printed images from books were most likely copied through drawings and then given to artists as models.56 In this way, the image is far removed from the original, once from the plate on which it was carved, again in its tran sfer from reproducible print to singular drawing, and once again geographically and culturall y re-inserted into an entirely different carving practiced by artists who had no a second-hand point of reference for what the images meant in their European context. 54 Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance 114-115. 55 See Bassani, African Art and Artefacts passim; Bassani, Raphael at the Tropics?: A Carved Ivory Oliphant in the Musee de lHomme, Journal of the History of Collections 10(1) (1998), passim; Bassani Arte Africana: Raffaello ai Tropici? Critica darte 58(4) (Oct.-Dec. 1995), passim; Bassani, Additional Notes on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories, passim; Bassani, African Spoons for th e Wunderkammern of the Renaissance, in Spoons in Africa: CookingServingEatingEmblems of Abundance ed. Lorenz Homberger (Zurich: Museum Reitberg, 1991) passim; and Bassani and Fagg. Africa and the Renaissance, passim. 56 See Bassani, Raphael at the Tropics? p. 1; Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance passim; Curnow, exhibition review of African and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory in African Arts 22 (August 1989): pp. 76-77, challenges Bassani and Faggs imbalanced emphasis on imported European printed material as sources for ivory iconography in a review of the exhibition and catalogue.

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41 The question of what factors caused the end of ivory sculpture production in this particular area yields answers as unclear and complex as other issues surrounding this moment in time, place, and material culture. Scholars have imp lied that around the mid-sixteenth century, the coast of Sierra Leone experienced an inva sion by the Mane people from the interior.57 It has also been suggested that the Manes grad ually encroached into Sapi areas, to settle in new territories and collect slaves for local use and some for e xport to Europe and the Americas. These included skilled Sapi workers, such as artisans, ironical ly for sale to the same Portuguese who were trading with Sapi artists.58 Collection and exportation of slaves became a central economic agenda for Portugals King Manuel I in his uneasy alliance with King Ferdinand of Spain in the sixteenth century.59 This explanation of gradual encr oachment and disruption of cultural practices as a cause for ivory sc ulpture decline is reasonable. It implies the deeply ambiguous nature of the development of early trade between Portuguese and Africans. Once the ivories arrived in Europe and bega n circulating and app earing in collection inventories, they were attributed various ly to either Indian or Turkish artists,60 as our Drer salt cellars reveal. The ivory carving traditions of Islamic peoples were known to Europeans since the Middle Ages, and the Portugue se did indeed bring numerous a nd varied ivory carvings back to Europe from Asia during the sixteenth centuri es. These attributions do not match the AfroPortuguese ivories stylistically, fo rmally, or ideologically (Islamic doctrine often, but not always, inhibited figural depiction in art). Additionall y, the few Portuguese trade accounts that survive 57 Yves Person, 1961, summarized in W. A. Hart and Christopher Fyfe, The Stone Sculptures of the Upper Guinea Coast. History in Africa 20 (1993): 76-78; See also Lamp, House of Stones, pp. 229-231 and Lamp, Ancient Wood Figures from Sierra Leone, pp. 54-55. 58 Aldo Tagliaferri summarized in Hart and Fyfe, The Stone Sculptures of the Upper Guinea Coast, p. 83. 59 Blier, Imaging Otherness, p. 395. 60 Bassani and Fagg, African and the Renaissance p. 53.

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42 from this period point to West Africa as the source of these particular ivory carvings.61 Ultimately, some of the African i vories themselves speak through their formal affinity with the roughly contemporaneous steatite, wood, and clay fi gures, pointing to a specifically Sierra Leone origin, as researchers in the tw entieth century have revealed.62 Historians and museum connoisseurs have struggled with locating specific possibilities of origin within West Africa. This elusiveness of even the broadest continenta l attributions has direct repercussions on how we can conceptualize the elusiveness of defining African art in general. 61 Alan F. C. Ryder, A Note on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories, The Journal of African History 5(3) (1964): 363. 62 John H. Atherton and Milan Kalous, Nomoli, The Journal of African History 11(3) (1970): 303-317; Lamp, Ancient Wood Figures from Sierra Leone, pp. 48-59.

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43 CHAPTER 3 BIOGRAPHY OF THE IVORIES THRO UGH LITERAR Y SOURCES AND MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS Igor Kopytoff, in Arjun Appa durais groundbreaking 1986 volume, The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective speaks at length of th e cultural biography of things.1 He says, Biographies of things can make salient what might otherwise remain obscure. For example, in situations of culture contact, th ey can show what anthr opologists have so often stressed: that what is significant about the adoption of alien objectsas of alien ideasis not the fact that they are adopted, but the way they are culturally redefined and put to use.2 To take this idea further and to borrow from Mirzoeffs idea of diasporic visual culture, a reference to the visual cultures of disp ersed human populations,3 populations of objects such as the AfroPortuguese ivories also experience diasporas or broad dispersals and transformation of identities in the process of their travels. Understanding the arts of Africa has always required multidisciplinary and multicultural inquiry rather than strictly conve ntional art history. In fact, the field of A frican art history and aesthetics, as exemplified by this particular corpus of works, can potentially lead traditional art history in new and broader directions. The disc ipline of art history was founded on eighteenth and nineteenth century European experience; w ith the introduction of aesthetic systems and realities that lie outs ide those of conventional Eurocentric methods of art history, a fuller understanding of art can be developed. Visu ality embodies a culture labyrinth in which 1 Kopytoff, The Cultural Biography of Things,p. 64. 2 Kopytoff, The Cultural Biography of Things, p. 67. 3 Nicholas Mirzoeff, ed. Introduction: The Multip le Viewpoint: Diasporic Visual Cultures, in Diaspora and Visual Culture, ( London and New York: Routledge, 2000), passim.

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44 multiple paths of politics, identity, race, and religion clash and rebound on one another.4 By tracing sources associated with the Sierra Leone export ivories a nd ways they have been treated by scholars and museum exhibitions, many of these broader points can elucidated, and a picture of how discourse around the ivories has unfolded can be formed. Early Sources on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories The Portugu ese first reached the coast of Sie rra Leone in 1460, and after the death of the famous Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator, be gan trading seriously th ere in 1462. There are no first-hand accounts of the interaction that occurred there until 1506-1510, when Valentim Fernandes published an account of lifestyles a nd customs on the Sierra Leone coast based on the experiences of Alvaro Velho, a Portuguese trad er who lived in West Africa from 1499 to 1507.5 While much interaction between Africans and Eur opeans must have transpired during the late fifteenth century, including the development of ocean ic trade networks of raw materials, as well as the possible trade in cultural goods, the reco rd remains tantalizingly fragmentary. Fernandes described that the coastal people made fine objec ts in ivory, but also ma de woven palm mats, as well as wood, clay, and stone figurative scul pture referred to pejoratively as idols.6 We can see that, though the information is fr agmentary and biased, Africans made and used their art in everyday life to fulfill immediate secular and spiritual needs, much like the inderdependence between art and life for Eu ropeans at that time. Roughly contemporaneous with Fernandes were the 1505-1508 writings of Duarte Pacheco Pereira, a Portuguese trader who later became th e governor of So Jorge da Mina, better known as Elmina, the infamous gold and slave port locat ed further east on the coast. Pacheco Pereira 4 Mirzoeff, ed., Introduction: The Multiple Viewpoint: Diasporic Visual Cultures, p. 24. 5 See Fernandes, Description de la Cte Occidentale dAfrique 6 Fernandes in Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance pp. 22-30.

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45 described the palm mats called bicas by the Temne and Bullom, carved ivory necklaces, and sharp filed teeth of the Bullom he encountered in the Sherbro area. He described their dwellings as simple thatched huts and their trade of sea salt for gold with the Susus and Fulas to the north.7 In 1594, Andr Alvares de Almada confirmed ea rlier accounts of the types of handicrafts found in the Sapi coastal areas, and additionally described the use of masquerade for judicial and civic ceremonial purposes8 (much like the function of Poro and Sande societies in modern day Sierra Leone and Liberia). Although he wrote three to four decades after the cultural and political disruptions caused by the inland Manis, he revealed that some Sapi cultural customs continued in some form. Colonial Era Discourse on Afro-Portuguese Ivories Serious consideration of this ea rly p eriod in the life cycle of the ivories in the modern era began with an 1851 conference of the Archaeolo gical Institute in L ondon, where a range of scholars posited an origin in either Africa or India for sixteenth century Portuguese agents.9 This symposium coincided not only with the famous Gr eat Exhibition Worlds Fair in London in that year, but also with the budding industrial and political coloni zation of Africa under mainly French, Belgian, and British rule which began in earne st in the late nineteenth century with what is now known as the Scramble for Africa.10 In 1897, the fateful Benin Punitive Expedition re sulted in the British sack of Benin City. The atmosphere of British triumph following th e event, which included the acquisition of a 7 Pacheco Pereira, Esmeraldo de Situ Orbis translated in Christopher Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance pp. 41-43. 8 Andr Alvares de Almada in Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance p. 30. 9 Curnow, The Afro-Portuguese Ivories, p. 33. 10 Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa revised ed. (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1981), p. 137.

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46 plethora of treasures (incl uding whole carved ivory tusks and bronze plaques), led many European scholars of that era to place a Benin attribution to the an tique ivories already in Europe since the sixteenth century. Charles Read and Ormande Dalton were the first to do so in their 1899 publication, Antiquities from the City of Benin and from Other Parts of West Africa in which they theorized that all of the ivory salt cellars, spoons, and oliphants were originally from Benin based on formal similarities they saw.11 While their conclusions have proven to be true in some cases, not all of the Kunstkammer Afro -Portuguese ivories were made in Benin. That same year, German Franz Heger posited the possibility of a Loanda origin in the Kongo region of what is now Angola, which wa s a hub for ivory carving for local use and export of raw ivory at the time of his research.12 Heger echoed a scholar with whom he consulted, hypothesizing that in light of the recent Benin discoveries (i.e. looting), they must actually all be from Benin: Before one knew Benin, one attributed everything that was Portuguese-influenced to the Kingdom of Kongo.13 That is to say, the Benin Puniti ve Expedition convinced him of Read and Daltons Benin theory over the Kongo th eory. The next year, and again in 1919, Felix von Luschan emphatically asserted a Benin orig in for all of the known Kunstkammer ivories14 an attribution later scholars assert was supported by flawed and contradictory evidence clouded by 11 Curnow, The Afro-Portuguese Ivories, p. 34. 12 From article by Franz Heger, Alte Elfenbeinarbeiten aus Afrika in den Wiener Sammlungen, Mitteilungen der anthropologischen Gesellschaft Wien 29 (1899): p. 109, translated by Curnow, The Afro-Portuguese Ivories, p. 34-35. 13 From article by Franz Heger, Alte Elfenbeinarbeiten aus Afrika in den Wiener Sammlungen, Mitteilungen der anthropologischen Gesellschaft Wien 29 (1899): p. 109, translated by Curnow, The Afro-Portuguese Ivories, p. 34-35. 14 See Curnow, The Afro Portuguese Ivories, p. 36 for discussion of Felix von Luschan, Bruchstck einer Beninpltte, Globus 78(19) (1900): 306-307 and von Luschan, Die Altertmer von Benin, 3 vols., (Berlin: Museum fr Vlkerkunde, 1919).

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47 the British euphoria following the Punitive Expedition of 1897.15 Wilhelm Foy challenged the Benin origin theory by posing the possibility that the ivories were carved in Europe by African sculptors.16 Curnow observes that the authoritative tone [of early twentieth century scholarship] helped establish the theory that the ivories of the curiosity cabinets were made in Benin, and museum authorities and scholars subscribed to th is point of view for the next forty years.17 In the turn-of-the-century, which coincides with the program of colonia list and industrialist propagation, the Benin theory became the blanke t attribution for the Af ro-Portuguese without regard to differences in style and form that range from obvious to subtle. The Post-Colonial Era: New Tactics of Systemization W illiam Fagg, who was the head of the Department of Ethnography in the British Museum (among other distinguished subsequent posts), published a catalogue of the Museums large collection of Kunstkammer ivories in 1959, entitled Afro-Portuguese Ivories This work has proven seminal for contemporary scholars of the s ubject of Afro-Portuguese ivories. He was the first to divide the production cen ters into three distinct locati ons: Sierra Leone, the Kingdom of Benin, and Lagos/Porto Novo area of Nigeria. One of these attr ibutions, the Lagos/Porto Novo area, was later discarded by Fagg and others. This short volume would prov e critical in moving toward a more focused picture of the original m ilieu for the Sierra Leon e ivories. For those who cannot travel to the British Museum, the 10 x 13 book conveys a larger-than-life impression of all of the ivories that belies th eir diminutive scale. Problems with the tone of language he used to 15 Fagg, Afro-Portuguese Ivories pp. xix-xx. 16 See Curnow, The Afro-Portuguese Ivories, pp. 35-36 and Fagg, Afro-Portuguese Ivories p. xxiv for discussions of Wilhelm Foy, Zur Frage der Herkunft einiger alter Jaghrner: Portugal oder Benin? Abhandlungen und Berichte des Knigliche Zoologischen und Anthropologisch-Ethnographischen Museums zu Dresden 9(6) (19001901): 20-22. 17 Curnow, The Afro-Portuguese Ivories, p. 36.

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48 describe the hybrid nature of these export goods are indicative of pervading attitudes toward African arts at the cusp of African nations in dependence. Fagg says resolutely, Anyone may see, from a comparison of the traditional and the tourist art of a tribe, that quite apart from the changes in outward form something more fundamental has been lost.18 His comment is indicative of the narrow conceptions of tribal, traditional, and tourist art that were so prevalent at that time. Historian Alan F. C. Ryder published a short article in 1964 on the fragmentary official accounts from the Portuguese Casa de Guin from 1504-1505 which record the purchase of ivory salt cellars and spoons by i ndividual travelers to the Sherbr o/Bullom area of Sierra Leone. He says that rather than being part of the official loads of goods imported for the government, these ivories were bought by and for private ownership.19 Based on these important records that solidify the case for a Sierra Leone origin, one ca n only imagine how the pa trons interacted with the artisans they met or under what circum stances the novel designs were conceived. Scholars have sought ways to compare this pioneering travelers art with something traditional. Soapstone, clay, and wooden sc ulpture provided such a means of comparison. William Fagg first suggested a stylistic connection between the ivories and stone figures, but not until John Atherton and Milan Kalous published their article in 1970 asserting a Sapi origin for the nomoli was there serious and deta iled consideration of how and why these figures were created. The authors claim that the stone sculptur es were intended to re present ancestors, though they do not offer definitive evidence to prove this.20 Another who has published important work on dating and attributing the nomoli is art historian Frederic k Lamp, who discussed some 18 Fagg, The Afro-Portuguese p. xvi. 19 Ryder, A Note on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories, pp. 363-365. 20 Atherton and Kalous, Nomoli, pp. 303-317.

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49 indigenous cultural pract ices surrounding the circumstances of existence of not only stone sculptures, but also w ooden and clay figures.21 William A. Hart and Christopher Fyfe provided a chronological overview of all publications that have discussed the stone figures of Sierra Leone since 1852. They discuss the reliability of these sources for resear chers now, concluding that the production of stone carvings probably predates the short-lived ivory carvin g industry. This is not to say that the ivory carvers did not have access to or were not influenced by the style of the stone figures.22 Kathy Curnows 1983 two-volume Ph.D. dissertat ion delineates workshops, points out the hybrid construction of the ivories as travelers art, and brings all works together in a catalogue raisonn of all known extant works to 1983. She furt her hypothesized that in Sierra Leone, there were two main centers or workshops that special ized in particular forms and styles of ivory carvings for sale to the Portuguese.23 George E. Brooks has analyzed geographical, ecological, and commercial circumstances that occurred in the pre-colonial period that resulted in a new population of what he calls Eurafricans beginning with the lanados (Luso-Africans) and later including British.24 He provides particularly insightful information about th e interactions of these settlers, who they may have been and how they later integrated into coastal West African societies, permanently transforming them. Lanados were therefore probably major players in the early life of the ivories. 21 See Lamp, Ancient Wood Figures from Sierra Leone, and House of Stones. 22 See Hart and Fyfe, The Stone Scul ptures of the Upper Guinea Coast. 23 See Curnow, The Afro-Portuguese Ivories. 24 See George E. Brooks, Eurafricans in Western Africa: Commerce Social Status, Gender, and Religious Observance from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century (Athens, OH: Ohio Un iversity Press, 2003).

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50 The first and only major exhibition to focus so lely on a large number of the extant AfroPortuguese ivories was produced by the Center for African Arts in New York in 1988-1989.25 Significantly, it was a venue for African art, not ethnographic materials or Western fine art that launched this project. For the first time, the work s were arranged and displayed as examples of a specific moment in the history of art production in Africa. Curated by Ezio Bassani and William Fagg under the directorship of Susan Vogel,26 the exhibition was accompanied by an exhaustive and beautifully produced catalogue that included fu ll discussions of source s, a catalogue raisonne of all known extant ivories, and even some th at are only known through drawings. Ezio Bassani, an Italian historian of African ar t in Europe, published various arti cles on individual ivory pieces in European collections, publishe d in Italian th roughout the 1970s.27 Curnow published one of only two reviews28 of the exhibition itself in a 1989 issue of African Arts While she praised the harmony between th e exhibition design space and the objects themselves, she took issue with the imbalanced preoccupation with European sources and contributions, [which] while undeniable and intere sting, seems disturbingly like an apologia, a way of making these examples of African art more acceptable to Western viewers by stressing their non-African elements.29 She went on to conclude that more references traditional 25 The Center for African Art is now called the Museum for African Art. 26 See exhibition preview article by Vogel, Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory. African Arts 22(2) (Feb. 1989): 84-89, 104. 27 See Bassani, Antichi Avori Afri cani nelle Collezioni Medicee, 1-2, Critica darte 144 (1975): 8-23; Bassani, Oggetti Africani in Antiche Collezioni Italiane, Critica darte 151 (1977): 151-182, 154-56 (1977): 187-202; Bassani, Gli Olifanti Afroportog hesi della Sierra Leone, Critica darte 163-165 (1979): 175-201; Bassani, Un Corno Afro-Portoghese con Decorazione Africana, Critica darte 166-168 (1979): 167-175; and Bassani, A Newly Discovered Afro-Portuguese Ivory. African Arts 17(4) (Aug. 1984): 60-63, 95. 28 The other review being Robin Cembelest, Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory, ARTnews 88 (Sept. 1989): 182. 29 Curnow, exhibition review of African and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory African Arts 22 (August 1989): p. 77.

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51 religious and social practices would have e nhanced and reinforced the strengths of the exhibition. The Bassani/Fagg-Curnow Episode and the New Era of Discourse on Afro-Portuguese Ivories Scholarly disagreements played out in the publishing arena are valu able for advancing discourse on the ivories. Occasionally, these excha nges devolved into personal invective, yet, an exchange among several scholars in the review and correspondence sect ions of the journal African Arts between 1989 and 1990 echoes the shifting confusion of attribution surrounding the Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories. The exchange sh ifted the focus from elucidating the ivories to questioning the scholarly and ethical integrity of the two comprehensive works on the ivories, namely Curnows dissertation and Bassani and Faggs catalogue, as well as the reviewer of the catalogue who brought some of the similari ties between the two works to light.30 In her review of the exhibition catalogue for Africa and the Renaissance Barbara Blackmun, stated that it is par ticularly unfortunate that its pu blication has raised important questions that must be addressed Although Curnows dissertati on appeared five years before Africa and the Renaissance and is listed in the bibliography, not a single direct reference to her exhaustive treatment of this subj ect has been made in the text,31 and that there are sixty statements in Bassani and Faggs text for which a reference to Curnows dissertation would have been courteous, and in some of these cases the lack of citation is extremely unusual.32 30 See heated exchange in African Arts beginning with Barbara W. Blackmun, review of exhibition catalogue for Africa and the Renai ssance: Art in Ivory by Ezio Bassani and William Fagg, African Arts 23(1) (November 1989): 12-20; Susan Vogel, Responses to the Review of Africa and the Renaissance African Arts 23(3) (July 1990): 10; Bassani and Fagg, Responses to the Review of Africa and the Renaissance African Arts 23(3) (July 1990): 10-20; Blackmun, More on Africa and the Renaissance : Rejoinder from Blackmun, African Arts 23(4) (October 1990): 16, 93; Curnow, Rejoinder from Curnow, African Arts 23(4) (October 1990): 16-22, 89-90 ; and Roy Sieber, Remarks by Sieber, African Arts 23(4) (October 1990): 90. 31 Blackmun, Review of exhibition catalogue for Africa and the Renaissance p.12 32 Blackmun, Review of exhibition catalogue for Africa and the Renaissance p. 16.

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52 Blackmun never actually used the word plagiarism, but her statements and detailed comparisons between many of the specifics of ea ch publication were unders tandably not ignored by the authors and organizers of Africa and the Renaissance three eminently accomplished scholars of African art and museum practice. Susan Vogel, who was then director of the Center for African Arts as we ll as author to the introductory essay for the catalogue immediately replied to Blackm uns review. Her letter, also in African Arts brought counter-allegations of unsound research on both Blackmun as well as Curnow, who had not been involve d with Blackmuns review of th e catalogue. In the same issue of African Arts Bassani and Fagg defended their research by stating that scholars conducting independent research in the same area and on th e same corpus of materials will sometimes make similar discoveries and reach similar conclusions.33 In her response in the following issue of African Arts Curnow acknowledged the fundamental differences in approach betw een her Afrocentric perspective and the Eurocentric perspective of the Africa and the Renaissance exhibition and catalogue.34 In the end, Roy Siebers short but auth oritative note stressed the im portance of young scholars in the continuance and propagation of the discipline of African art history: For the growth of a discipline, for the deeper understanding of a subject, I believe that the elders must credit and honor those who follow as rigorously as they expect the young ones to honor them I believe that the scholarly community must consider these questions most carefully, not as much to judge or condemn one side or the other, but to reflect on where our discipline is being taken and what self-imposed and self-regulative rules we all must scrupulously follow to avoid both the reality and the appearance of wrongdoing. 35 Following Siebers letter, the ma tter was not pursued further. 33 Bassani and Fagg, Responses to the Review of Africa and the Renaissance p. 20. 34 Curnow, Rejoinder from Curnow, p.18. 35 Sieber, Remarks by Sieber, p. 90.

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53 An unfortunate result of this brief but heated episode has been a stagnation of published research on Afro-Portuguese ivories. Curnow has continued to publis h periodically on the subject (among others), and remains an Afrocentric, while Bassani ha s continued to publish on the European sources for the ivories as well as numerous newly discovered extant works. Both perspectives are valid and valuable in revea ling the complete biography of the ivories. The question of Afrocentric or Eur ocentric perspectives and whic h is more appropriate in the study of the Afro-Portuguese ivories does not have a clear answer because of the mixed perspectives that contributed to the production of the ivories. The nature of visual culture studies, which encourages the crossing of borders between disciplines and perspectives, is a way to refresh this discourse. Suzanne Preston Blier wrote an exploratory article published in Art Bulletin Imaging Otherness in Ivory: African Po rtrayals of the Portuguese ca. 1492 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Columbuss discovery of the Americas as a way not only to revise how we may read possible perspectives of th e African carvers of the ivorie s on their Portuguese patrons, but also how we may rethink the entire mome nt of European exploratory expansion through them.36 Indeed the fifth centennial of Columbus navigation of the Americas was the occasion to explore that moment for several major museum exhibitions. In anticipation of this histori cal milestone, the National Galler y of Art in Washington, D.C. launched the 1991 exhibition, Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration .37 This exhibition used the now-iconic and fateful year of the discovery of America and also the rhetoric of Europeans exploration of lands they encountered as they expanded their commercial enterprises as a 36 Blier, Imaging Otherness, p. 396. 37 See Jay A. Levenson, ed., Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration, (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1991).

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54 framework to display the collected objects from Africa, Asia, and the Americas that are now the visual and material residue of that era. Africa was represented by a Jenne terracotta eque strian figure, Benin ca st brass figures and plaques and ivory carvings both for local use and export, a Kongo-Portuguese carved horn, and several Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories (including the Ro me exectutioner salt cellar).38 Homi K. Bhabha wrote an essay addressing the overall me ssage of the exhibiti on, called Double Visions reprinted in a volume, Grasping the World: the Idea of the Museum edited by Donald Preziosi and Claire Farago.39 His insights about the power dynamics in motion in the exhibition and how the past should be told, and who gets to define it was important in questioning the power of the blockbuster exhibition in conveying undertones of cultural dominan ce to museum goers. Bhaba states: What was once exotic and archaic, tribal or folkloristic, inspired by strange gods, is now given a secular nati onal present, and an international futu re. Sites of cultural difference too easily become part of the post-Modern Wests thirst for its own et hnicity The global perspective in 1492 as in 1992 is the purview of power. The globe shrinks for those who own it; for the displaced or the dispossessed, th e migrant or refugee, no distance is more awesome than the few feet across borders or frontiers.40 It could be said that the Afro-Portuguese ivorie s themselves were preordained to be distanced from their geographical point of origin and they have been further displaced by great temporal distances as well. They are a dispersed migrant object population with no original home to which to return. 38 Levenson, Circa 1492, pp. 176-191. 39 Homi K. Bhabha, Double Visions, Artforum 30:5 (January 1992): 85-89, reprinted in Grasping the World: The Idea of the Museum eds. Donald Preziosi and Claire Farago (Handts, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2004), pp. 236-241. 40 Bhabha, Double Visions, p. 240.

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55 While The Age of the Marvelous exhibition of 1991 did not display any Afro-Portuguese ivories, its theme and timing reflect an abiding interest in European visual culture at the quincentennial landmark year (in actuality, a rath er arbitrary bookmark in history upheld by the rhetoric of Columbuss discovery). The e xhibition, organized by the Hood Museum, traveled to three other venues from 1991-1993.41 The show and accompanying catalogue are valuable for their in-depth analysis of the methods of object cate gorization of the Kunst-, Wunder-, Raritaetenkammern The catalogue attempts to reflect the va ried types of objects in the spirit of Wunderkammer display aesthetics, except this time with di dactics as part of the display for more critical understanding, unlike the practices of the early private collections which sought merely to categorize and display th e objects themselves without contextual understanding. Several other exhibitions have dealt with framing or reframing the idea of the Renaissance, with particular focus on Portugals effect on world exploration dur ing the fifteenthand sixteenth-century Portuguese political zenith. For example, Os Descobrimentos Portugueses e a Europa do Renascimento, a five-venue exhibition in Lis bon in 1983 was cited as a source of inspiration for Africa and the Renaissance in Bassani and Faggs le tter in response to Barbara Blackmuns review of their catalogue.42 However, the Portuguese exhibition was not cited in Bassani and Faggs catalogue. Bassani cited it in his 2000 publication, African Art and Artefacts in European Collections 1400-1800 .43 Perhaps the explanation fo r the confusion around this seemingly minor point stems from the scant ava ilability of the Portuguese exhibition catalogue 41 See Kenseth, The Age of the Marvelous 42 Angela Delaforce, Review: The Portuguese Discoveries, Lisbon, The Burlington Magazine 125:966 (Sept. 1983): pp. 576-579; Bassani and Fagg, Responses to the Review of Africa and the Renaissance p. 14.. 43 Bassani, African Art and Artefacts p. 308; the volume has been criticized for its many editorial errors that introduce an unwelcome note of uncer tainty by William Hart, Review of African Art and Artefacts in European Collections, 1400-1800 in African Arts 35(3) (Autumn 2002): 10-11, 88.

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56 and its publication in Portuguese, a language not well known to many English-speakers. Nevertheless, the inconsistency in Bassanis citati ons of this exhibition th at so inspired him is peculiar. Importantly, this exhi bition did feature Sierra Leon e-Portuguese hunting horns and salt cellars, but within a context similar to that of Circa 1492that of conqueror displaying the cultures of the conquered. Exotica: Portugals Entduckungen im Spiegel frstlicken Kunstund Wunderkammern der Renaissance, was an exhibition held at the Schloss Am bras in Innsbruck, Austria in 2000 that displayed many of the same objects as the current Encompassing the Globe exhibition, including several of the same Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories.44 In this case, the exhibition focused on the encyclopedic collecting practices of Austrian nobility in the sixt eenth and seventeenth centuries rather than on the heroism of Portuguese world exploration, but the denial of perspectives of non-European cultures (whose visual and material culture is was fundamental to both exhibitions as well as the Circa 1492 exhibition) is still the tendency in each of these visu ally stunning but prospectively limited exhibitions. Another exhibition to focus on the heroic achievements of early modern Portugal is Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries, a 2007 exhibition organized by Smithsonian Institution and shown at the Sackler & Freeer Galleries and the National Museum of African Art.45 As in the Circa 1492 exhibition, the orde r of display (at least within the catalogue) begins with discussions of European (in this case, Portuguese) artistic and technological achievements that set the stage for the story of their naval explorations and then presents geographical regions in the orde r Portuguese explored them: first Africa (Sierra 44 See Wilfried Seipel, Exotica: Portugals Entdeckung en im Spiegel frstlicher Kunstund Wunderkammern der Renaissance (Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum, 2000). 45 See Jay A. Levenson, ed., Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2007).

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57 Leone, then Benin and Kongo), then Brazil, I ndian Ocean, China, and Japan. Many maps and navigational instruments are illust rated and serve to demonstrate Portugals leadership in these technologies. With a forward by Portugals Presid ent and another by the Mi nister of Culture as well as chapters addressing Portugal and the Wo rld and Christians and Spices the catalogue makes clear that the perspectiv e is firmly Lusocentric. As discussed earlier, the only exhibition to focus on the Afro-P ortuguese ivories in a venue exclusively for African art was Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory in New York at the Center for African Art in 19881989. The exhibit was open for a short period at its home venue and traveled briefly to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston in late 1989, but its impact, and that of its catalogue, has been monumental. While it has been criticized for being too Eurocentric in perspective, by the very virtue of its venue and limit to only the African-made ivories, it is still groundbreaking for firmly locating the works in th e history of African art and underscoring the great and lasting ability for form al and cultural synchronicity f ound in many visual cultures of Africa. The inclusion of Afro-P ortuguese ivories in the college survey textbook on African arts46 as well as general Art History surv ey textbook sections on African arts47 attests to the consensus that they do belong to the study of African art as much as that of art history in general. Finally Incisive Images: Ivory and Boxwood Carvings 1450-1800 (March 13-November 25, 2007) is a small-scale exhibition in the Wright sman Exhibition Gallery on the first floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that focuses on the Museums collection plus several borrowed pieces of small ivory and boxwood carvings circa 1450-1800. This show contains a small section of various Afro-Portuguese ivor ies includes the surprising pub lic debut of a Sierra Leone46 Monica Blackmun Vison, Robin Poynor, Herbert M. Cole, and Michael D. Harris, A History of Art in Africa (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 2001), pp. 171-172. 47 Mamiya, Christin J. and Fred S. Kleiner and Richard G. Tansey. Gardners Art Through the Ages, 11th ed. (Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt College Publishers, 2001), pp. 422-423.

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58 Portuguese salt cellar. Its only previous appearan ce was when it was sold to a private collector through a British art dealer. The situation of these Afro-Port uguese pieces among the other European small-scale but virtuosic works in ivory downplays their African identity, while attesting to their ability to seamlessly meld into a European context with out losing any of their distinctive visual presence. The over-arching question raised by scholar ly research and mu seological practices surrounding these ivories: Who is and was discovering whom? Exhi bitions can help perpetuate or dispel biases in the possible answers to this question for the ove rall public perception. Museums today play an important role in sending messages to people about how to perceive the world, just as carefully consid ered scholarship can take the study of th e ivories into new territories of implication.

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59 CHAPTER 4 TWO SIERRA LEONE-POR TUGUESE SALT CELLARS: EMBODIM ENTS OF A TRANSCULTURAL CONCEPTION AND LIFE CYCLE Salt cellars of Afro-Por tuguese origin embodied triple laye rs of value for Europeans: the precious material of ivory and its association with the elephant, thei r utility as a receptacle of salt (another precious commodity for both Europeans and Africans), and their value as an exotic memento of distant exploration. A detailed discussion of two di stinct ivory sa lt cellars with several traits in common will provide a means of unpacking these layers. One of the salt cellars is well-known to scholars and is owned by the Museo Nazionale Preistorico e Etnographico in Rome (Figure 1), while the other makes its firs t prolonged public appearance currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Figur e 14). Each is likely carved from a single piece of ivory, with the exception of restoration or a ddition to the finials. They have similar formal structures: a globular container rests atop cylindr ical structure that features a series of seated human figures each facing outward, and with arms extended to hold decorative posts while various forms of macabre disembodied human heads crown the tops of the dome-like lids. Kathy Curnow surmised that this type of salt cellar was the specialty of a particular workshop or group of carvers who worked together or at least influenced one another. 1 Ezio Bassani and William Fagg posit that the various types of formal configurations were used across the workshops.2 The interpretation of subject matter of the ivories is as vague or unknowable as the identities of the artists. While th e Cellini salt cellar discussed in chapter 2 references Classical motifs related to the sea, the source of salt, the mysterious figures and motifs on many of the ivory salt cellars defy definite interpretation. Just who the fi gures were and what the other 1 See Curnow, The Afro-Portuguese Ivories, ch. 4. 2 Bassani and Fagg, African and the Renaissance ch 5.

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60 decorative motifs referred to or meant was likel y just as mysterious to sixteenth-century Europeans as it is to scholars today. The Rome Executioner Salt Cellar The salt cellar at the Museo N azionale Preistorico e Etnograf ico (also known as the L. Pigorini Mu seum) in Rome is the tallest (17 inch es) and perhaps one of the most finely carved, graceful, and iconographically perplexing pieces in these types of objects. An image of it was used in the frontispiece illustration for Faragos volume, and it has been pictured in numerous other publications of African art and other varied topics since its rediscovery in 1975.3 For example, it was also featured in the ency clopedic and highly publicized quincentennial exhibition and catalogue, Circa 1492, at the National Gallery of Art in 1991-2.4 Its singularity and prominent appearance in some of the contemporary eras impor tant publications and exhibitions on art from the period propel its cont inued social status in the upper echelon of the Afro-Portuguese ivories. The egg-shell thin cylindrical hollow base is smoothly polished and in terspersed with two rows of minutely carved nodules and flares shar ply at the bottom to pr ovide a stable resting surface. Four evenly-spaced three-dimensional fi gures with elongated torsos sit on the edge of the base in an alternating male-female fashion (F igure 25). Each of the two females grasps in her right hand a slender vertical weight-supporting column decorated w ith the same rows of beading that appear on the base. Another, identical column is parallel to these, which are grasped by the left hands of the male figures. The sculptor has positioned the two pairs of columns on exact opposite sides of the edge of the base, as he has d one with each of the other paired elements (two 3 Grottanelli, Discovery of a Masterpiece, pp. 14-23; 4 Levenson, Circa 1492, cat. no. 67.

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61 women, two men, two pairs of columns, etc.). C limbing down each of the four vertical column pairs is a small, schematically textured crocodi le with miniscule rows of sharp bared teeth. The womens left hands (and mens right hands) grasp a curved, slender knot form, two of which also appear opposite each other dictated by the circular base. Th ese knot forms, like the column pairs, are also weight-bearing and are de corated with tiny rows of bead-like nodules, the effect of which lends an added layer of visual unity and three-dimensional radial symmetry. The knots are formed by V-shaped rods extending vertic ally toward one another from both the base below and above from the underside of a horizontally circular disk form that acts both as a roof over the heads of the figures and a secondary flat base for the bowl situated above. A circular rope form unites the confronting pairs of V sh apes. The stacks of thin rings carved around the terminating points of the columns and V sections of the knots echo the carving of the tiny fingers wrapped around each supporting element as well as the series of rings carved around the womens ankles. The two male figures also wear gender-spe cific costume and retain the same elongated torsos, short limbs, and proportionally large heads in keeping with the female figures. The males each wear close-fitting above-the-k nee breeches with articulated codpieces (genital coverings), a rimmed hat, and a short vest that leaves the mi driff bare. The female figures are carved with smooth close-fitting dome-shaped caps, each with a small flap hanging a short distance down the elongated cylindrical neck. Each wears a smooth-te xtured knee-length skir t with a narrow border at the bottom carved with a contin uous sunken-relief zig-zag line. Their bare chests are decorated with crossed bands of beaded rows that mimic those appearing throughout each element of the pieceand possibly represent stylized keloid scarifica tion patterns.

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62 Both male and female heads are larger and more pronounced in the proportional scheme, and their meticulously articulated facial features including eyes, ears, flared nostrils, and full lips convey an internalized and standardized image of the human face with which the maker (or makers) canonized. The remote, unreadable ex pression conveyed by each face is lent an otherworldly quality by the archaic smile.5 Above the openwork midsection comprised of th e alternating seated figures and weightbearing elements rests a disk surmounted by a spherical vessel whose lid bisects horizontally. The smooth surface of the sphere is balanced by radi ating vertical bands of tiny rows of the same bead-like nodules that appear on both the base and the openwork midsection elements. About a quarter of the way up the sphere, a horizontal ba nd of nodules circumscribes the sphere, as does another band at the edge of both the lower part of the container and lid. Perhaps the most striking feature of the sa ltcellar is the fully in-the-round form of the group of figures atop the lid. A large kneeling figure surrounded by six disembodied heads and a smaller seated figure that appears to be subordi nate to the large hat-we aring figure (Figure 26). The larger figure holds an axe (an addition by a re storer) over the neck of the smaller seated figure as if in mid-execution. One clue to the groups meaning is provided by Frederick Lamps discussion of the contemporaneously produced soapstone sculptures, today referred to as nomoli Lamp cites Fernandess account of Sap i burial customs for a male notable: They place the deceased seated in a chair with most of the garments he owns and they place a shield in his hand and in the other a sp ear and a sword in his belt And if he is a man who has killed many men in battle, they put all the skulls of the men he has killed in front of him.6 5 Curnow, The Afro-Portuguese Ivories, p. 93. 6 Fernandes, Description de la Cte Occidentale dAfrique, p. 90, translated from Portuguese into English by Lamp, House of Stones, p. 229: Ent poem o morto assentado em h a cadeyra c os melhores vestidos q elle tem E pe lhe h a darga na mo e em outra h a azagaya e h a expada na inta E se home q tem mortos muytos homes em guerra pem lhe ttas caueyras de homes dite delle qutos tem mortos.

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63 Lamp relates this description of routine Sapi bu rial customs to a clothed male figure in steatite surrounded by decapitated heads (Figure 27). Th e striking similarity between the verbal description and visual manifesta tion relates closely to a more recent Temne and Kissi concept, krifi a term that refers to ances tral spirits who are thought to be turned to stone upon death.7 Though it is methodologically risky to connect a twentieth-century cosmology to sixteenth century sculpture and descriptions of burial prac tices, separated by such a vast expanse of time and lack of continuously reliable written reco rds or oral history of the Temne and surrounding Sapi peoples, nevertheless this correlation or affinity be tween ephemeral words and concrete sculpture is too close to discount. Just as their material encompasses visual sign s of wealth and prestige, so too do the forms and surfaces of Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivor ies. For example, the composition on the lid, through its hierarchy of scale, lik ely represents a social hierarchy between the executioner and his smaller victim. The largest figure is shown in the act of executing a smaller subordinate prisoner. Social perspective is a device used in art fr om all over the world to denote the comparative social status of individuals re presented. A steatite carving from Si erra Leone shows a male figure with three smaller figures lined up in front of hi m approximately half his height, while the larger standing figure places his hands on their heads (Figure 28). In the kingdom of Benin, bronzes plaques made for palace decoration also employed a similar hierarchy of scale to indicate social rank (Figure 29). The Benin Oba (king) is shown more than twice the hei ght as his retinue who stand on the same ground line, whil e the figures of Portuguese app ear even smaller, in profile, and less distinct flanking the Obas head. The pr esence of the flanking Portuguese figures serves 7 Blier, Imaging Otherness, p. 391.

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64 as a signifier for the political and economic supr emacy of the Oba, referencing his ability to access the wealth that Europeans brought as well as his use of Portuguese mercenary traders to assist in military victories. As Grottanelli suggests, the execution scene on the Rome salt cellar is possibly a representation of an African ruler in the guise of a Portuguese man surrounded by symbolic victims.8 Alternately, it could represent a living African chief wearing appropriated clothing style of the Portuguese who were perceived, as they were in Benin, to possess worldly and spiritual powers. Such references may well have been used to reinforce and to magnify the chiefs own power over his African subjects. Another possible (p erhaps concurrent) meaning is that the larger figure is an actual Portuguese manor lanadowho holds power of justice over the smaller African individual. However, no other hi storical records point to this type of political or judicial power between Africans and Portuguese at this time and plac e. Regardless of the specific reading, clearly one figure holds ultimate prestige and power of life and death over the others. Bliers hypothesis is that the Sierra Leone ivories, which represent early sustained exchange between Portuguese and Africans, in dicate that Africans associated the seafaring Portuguese with the realm of the dead and with regeneration in the world of the living. She argues that the coastal peoples of West Africa ha ve historically constructed their beliefs about the continuum between life and death around bodies of water, where the color white was associated at once with the spiritual world and the world of the dead.9 That the ivoryan essentially white materialsalt cellar depi cts a man in a Portuguese ha t, whether he is African, 8 Grottanelli, Discovery of a Masterpiece, pp. 16-18. 9 Blier, Imaging Otherness, p. 380.

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65 Portuguese, lanado or filho da terra holding a shield and surrounded by decapitated heads is so similar to Fernandess descri ption, with the addition of Port uguese elements such as helmet and breeches, indicates that Blier very well may be correct. The skin of the Portuguese was indeed much pa ler than that of the indigenous Africans; they also arrived in ships from the vast Atlantic Ocean. Furthermore, they displayed great wealth. Thus, the ivory carvings may have corres ponded with pre-existing Sapi beliefs about the other realm. In this case, the artwork ma y have been more an indication of an African artists perception of the visi ting Portuguese, rather than a cas e of Portuguese dictating their perceptions of Africans, as the more European motifs on many of the other ivories might suggest. Warfare and execution as justice were expected occurrences in the lives of both Portuguese and Sierra Leoneans. Early accounts of the peoples of coastal Sierra Leone speak of localized warfare, capture, enslavement, and execution of prisoners.10 Meanwhile, in Europe at the time, many crimes were invariably punis hed by either expulsion or execution.11 Therefore, the depiction of a Portuguese-garbed African (or an Africanized lanado ?) meting out the ultimate justice could resonate visually both for African artist and for Portuguese patron in different but converging ways. Perception of the Self as the Other Made Visual In his Introduction to Visual Culture Mirzoeff considers the vi suality, or visual conceptualization, of everyday life to be at the center of understanding culture in the postmodern 10 See Fernandes, Description de la Cte Occidentale dAfrique; Pacheco Pereira, Esmeraldo de Situ Orbis translated in Christopher Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance pp. 41-43; Andr Alvares de Almada in Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance pp. 30-33. 11 This was infamously true on the Iberian Peninsula where the Inquisition pervaded judiciary government. See David Fintz Altab, The Significance of 1492 to the Jews and Muslims of Spain, Hispania 75(3) (Sept. 1992): 728-731.

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66 world. What, if anything, can be learned of the now-extinct everyday lif e of the early modern Africans who produced the objects in question here if the only record is the object itself? The Rome executioner saltcellar pr ovides some important, though speculative, insight. Around the base of the salt cellar, the male fi gures wear Portuguese helmets and codpieces. These figures and their reference to things Euro pean help to reinfor ce the idea of Portuguese prestige invoked by the scene on the lid. The fe male figures that appear between the helmetwearing males do not wear Portuguese clothing. They are depicted bare-br easted with geometric markings and ringed anklets. These attributes underscore their local identity since European women of the time would not appear with short skirts, much less bear breasted. The alternation of Portuguese-dressed men and African-adorned women might also allude to various transcultural scenarios such as marriage between the new population of lanados and elite native women. Or do the men represent Africans who have appropriated the dress of Portuguese as it has been suggested the ruler-figure on the lid has done? The fact that both male and female figures are consistently depicted wi th negroid facial features and standardized body proportion shows that the African ca rvers could have envisioned themselves as the same as their Portuguese counterparts. The New York Salt Cellar An enigm atic salt cellar has just made its fi rst public appearance, adding significantly to the corpus of Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories (F igure 14). The salt cellar conforms to a similar basic formal schema (ball-on-openwork figural pe destal) as the Rome executioner salt cellar and is on loan from a private collection at th e Metropolitan Museum of Art for an exhibition called Incisive Images: Ivory and Boxwood Carvings 1450-1800 organized by Johanna Hecht. Both Hecht, curator of European Sculptur e and Decorative Arts, and Alisa LaGamma, curator of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and th e Americas, confirm that the piece fits squarely

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67 within the style of the Sierra Le one-Portuguese ivories a nd is surely from that era of exchange.12 Hecht further notes that the form and style is particularly close to the example in the Museo [Nazionale] Preistorico e Etnografico in Rome.13 Here, she is referring not to the executioner salt cellar (Figure 1) but to anot her salt cellar w ith a conventional Janus head finial in that collection (Figure 30). However, the New York salt cellar also resembles the Rome execution scene example in several ways that enforce its place within the group of Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories. Like the Rome example, this container has a sh ort, diagonal base that angles directly at a 45 slant without the curved effect of the Rome executioner container s flared base. A sunken relief narrow zig-zag line traces both the top and bottom edge of this base, while a wider zig-zag pattern made of a single line of inset bead-like nodules circles middle band of the base. Four male-female alternating seated figu res also perch at even intervals around the edge of the circular base, though these are weight-supporti ng caryatids with spiral rods extending from their heads to meet the base of bowl above. The figures ea ch grasp two supporting openwork knot forms located opposite each other along the base which are nearly id entical to the supporting knot forms on the Rome executioner salt cellar. A short rod decorated with a closely spaced spiral ridge pattern extends from the t op of the four heads to the disk shape which is surmounted by a sphere bisected horizonta lly between bowl and lid. Two large cruciform pillars rise upward from e ither side of the base and each is decorated with a small twisting oval carved in relief at the point of intersection. Holes have been bored through many of the smooth planes on both the base and bowl, some of wh ich are filled in with 12 Johanna Hecht, Re: grad student at UF, inquiry about an Afro-Portuguese ivory in Incisive Images exhib., email to the author, Sept. 25, 2007; Alisa LaGamma, RE: student of Vicki Rovine with question about an ivory object in Incisive Images exhibition, e-mail to the author, Sept. 19, 2007. 13 Hecht, Re: grad student at UF.

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68 an unidentified substance. Mottled oxidized gr een patina point to the probable presence of copper coverings,14 possibly added at one point in time and removed sometime later. Rows of beads set between thin ridges give th e appearance of a textured woven material. Portuguese, and later British, records mention local production beautiful mats of palm-leaf,15 and the bead-row and zig-zag patte rns on both of these sa lt cellars are potentially modeled after these supposedly ubiquitous raffia weavings. Overall, the piece demonstrates many of the same formal conventions, decorative elements, and sense of balance and rest raint as the Rome salt cellars. The Rome example descri bed in detail in this chapter exceeds the New York salt not only in size and surviving condition, but also in the consistency of finished surfaces. It is entirely possible that our two examples plus the second Ro me salt cellar come from the same or closelyworking artist or workshops. Life and Death Envisioned in the Janus Head As in the Rom e salt cellar, the lid of the Ne w York salt cellar is the most striking feature with its crowning reference to disembodied head s, death, and triumph. This particular Janushead finial is unique in the co rpus of Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories: While Janus-heads often appear on the salt cellar lids16 (for example, Figure 30), they are always carved with the sinuous curvilinearity of soapstone nomoli and other ivory human figuresboth African and Portuguesedepicted on all other salt cellars. Additionally, most Janus-headed saltcellars consist of two near-identical human faces, some times with Portuguese helmets, sometimes with the more typically African textured head band or coiffure. The Janus-head on this container, in 14 Hecht, Re: grad student at UF. 15 Pacheco Pereira, Esmeraldo de Situ Orbis translated in Christopher Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance p. 41. 16 Bassani and Fagg record at least six salt cella rs whose lids terminate with a double-faced head, Africa and the Renaissance p. 230.

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69 contrast, depicts Christ crowned by thorns with a human skull (presumably Christs) on the other side (Figure 31). A twisted line encircles the finial on the lid echoes th e twisting ovals on the crosses below. Spiritual and moral realms, although intangible and invisi ble, were believed by both Africans and Europeans to be ever-present in ever yday life. The belief in witchcraft or sorcery was subscribed to by both Africans and European s as a major cause of disease and misfortune, and amulets and other visual/material talismans we re employed to ward off such real and everpresent threats.17 While decapitated heads do appear in the Sierra Leone artistic oeuvre, the fleshless skull does not. This drastically different Janus head was most probably added by a later, less skilled restorer. If this finial was in fact carved by an African, which is extremely doubtful, it is the only indication of a desire to show the face of Christ in the same style Europeans would have and did depict him. A more effective point of visual comparison with this finial is the tradition of French, Netherlandish, and German carved ivory rosary beads in the form of double-faced memento mori heads. A small head dated to 1500-1525 with th e face of a young but emaciated man on one side and a skull crawling with worms on the other side (Figure 32) at the Detroit Institute of Arts provides an excellent example. It is much finer in detail and an atomical correctness than the salt cellar finial; however, the theme is quite the sa mea reminder of the fleeting nature of human life. As a rosary bead, it would have encouraged its owner to accept his (o r her) inevitable fate while at the same time reinforcing his own soci al status with an expensive decorative object. Furthermore, both the rosary bead and the fini al with its macabre exaggerated grimace of the 17 Peter Mark, European Perceptions of Black Africans in the Renaissance, Bassani and Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance pp. 23-26.

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70 skull face display a preoccupation with morbidit y and mortality that was common to art from these areas in Europe at the time.18 As a comparison for the manner of Christs depi ction in period European art, the cloth of Saint Veronica, who wiped Christs face for him as he struggled to carry the cross to Golgotha, was a commonly depicted motif within Christ ian iconography. When Veronica pulled the cloth away, a miraculous imprint of Christs face remained, a miracle that was depicted in many European prints.19 The most famous of these brings us back to Drer, who published numerous prints with the Veronica cloth subject (also known as the Sudarium ) (Figures 33 and 34). Although Drers two-dimensional rende ring of Christs face is more finely detailed than that of the sculptural ivory finial, the flat-featured bearded face, long straight hair, doleful expression, and twisting crown of thorns are essentially the sa me. Since we do no know who restored the finial (and took great liberty with it), we can only infer that they were fam iliar with and influenced by the ways in which Christ has been historically depicted. Fu rthermore, the restorer could have been familiar with the other salt cellars with original Janus heads, and deliberately chosen to continue the Janus fo rm, but treat it in a completely different way. More likely, the restorer was familiar with European treatment of Christs face and memento mori. The exact provenance of this container is unknown. However, its overall form, surface decoration, and integration of figures in the base in the so-called nomoli -style indicate that it is of Sierra Leone-Portuguese orig in. The lids of both the Rome and New York salt cellars constitute a sort of memento mori or reminder of death, which was a popular and common theme in many forms of art in late-medieval/early-modern Europe.20 While the reminder of death (as 18 St Aubyn, ed., Ivory: An International History, p. 112. 19 Kenseth, The Age of the Marvelous p. 446. 20 Barnet, ed., Images in Ivory, pp. 277-278; St Aubyn, ed., Ivory: An International History, p. 112.

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71 justice) appears from the multiple perspectives of African artist and Portuguese patron on the Rome ivory, the memento mori on the lid of the New York salt cellar is decidedly European. In combination with the prominent cross with thor n crown appearing on the base, it seems that perhaps the Portuguese patron wish ed to see a graphically Christian vision of death and its meaning of salvation through Chri sts suffering. The base includes the same openwork male and female figures as those of the both Rome ivories discussed above, altern ating with a vertical element to support the vessel above, except this time, it is a crucifix with crown of thorns instead of straight columns with crawling crocodiles. In light of the propos ed reading of the other motifs, it is unclear how these hybrid Af ro-Portuguese elements fit into the overall program. It appears that both salt cellars reflect transcultural views of death and an attempt to connect to or at least depict the spirit realm. The Western art historical ca non contains various forms of memento mori ranging from the literal (consider the skeleton laid upon the Latin-insc ribed coffin in Masaccios Trinity of the early fifteenth century, Figure 35) to the symbo lic (Caravaggios basket of decaying fruit and foliage balanced precariously on a ledge painte d in the late sixteent h century, Figure 36). Masaccio painted his memento mori at eye level, visually co mpeting with the holy Trinity painted above, which emphasizes Christs tr anscendence from the misery of crucifixion. Although the configurations of motifs (the cross, the stylized crowns of thorns, the suffering face of Christ, the macabre skull) on the salt cellar are unrelat ed to these European works, the themes resonate visually and conceptually. The modern people who unearth the nomoli figures buried in the soil could also be said to be reminded of death through the association with ancestors from the past turned to stone

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72 manifested in the present. Incidentally, these non -visual, ephemeral themes converge visually in each of these examplesAfrican salt cellar, Italian fresco, mysterious stone figure. Both salt cellars are useful in showing not only the first mome nt of cultural exchange with Europeans in coastal Sierra Leone but also the forces of agency at work in their inceptions. Their importance within the corpus of Afro-Portuguese ivories is evident: the Rome executioner salt cellar has been recognized as one of the finest (i f not the finest) example of the salt cellars, while the New York piece is the newest and one of th e most anomalous pieces for the way in which it was restored. Its somewhat rougher manner of carving, though still skillful in its design and execution, provides a foil to the supreme refinement of the Rome executioner salt cellar. The damage done to it over time actually reveals more of its life story than if it had survived intact.

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73 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION: DIASPORA OF OBJECTS: T RANSCULTURAL MEMORY AND MOTION This project strives to delineate shifting cont exts of display and co llection of the AfroPortuguese ivories, and particul arly those from the earliest co astal people who produced these objects in Sierra Leone. Homi K. Bhabha states of the Circa 1492 exhibition, [It] is an exhibit with a double vision: the eye expanding to hold th e world in one space: the eye averted, awry, attenuated, trying to see the uniqueness of each specific cultural tradition and production. The show is crafted from a creative tension deep within the early modern moment.1 His statement encapsulates all that continues to be important about the Afro-Portuguese ivories in the ongoing tension of between understanding th e conditions of their original existence and their relationship to complex and sometimes conflicting cultural identities. By thinking of the Afro-Portuguese ivories as objects with a life cycle that is ongoing as long as the works continue to ex ist and circulate, we can see th at they acquire meanings and values their original makers ma y never have intended or even im agined. In the examination of the lives of the objects as they have been interpreted by scholars situated at various points in history, layer upon layer of signi ficance accrues onto the body of knowledge about the ivories and becomes inscribed on the objects themselves. By examining two salt cellars, utilitarian-turne d-decorative objects that held particular prestigious significance for their early modern European owners, th is project elucidates how they became embodiments of a transcultural mome nt. Details of iconogr aphy, restoration, and synthesis of meanings come into a different kind of focus than has been seen before. The recent re-emergence of a salt cellar that carries so many visible marks of its rich and what must have been varied life into the corpus of the ivories is particularly fo rtuitous. Even if we never know 1 Bhabha, Double Visions, p. 236.

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74 the complete story, the object itself carries its hist ory visibly and invisibly as it circulates in the public sphere of awareness and acquires additional contextual meaning. The struggle to categorize and properly contex tualize the Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories evokes elusive concepts. Culture, Identity, A uthenticity are all words that have been used to discuss the ivory sculptures, ye t they are the concepts that b ecome more and more complex as we continue to unpack them. The Sierra Leone-Por tuguese ivories, despite or perhaps because of the puzzling circumstances of their existence and visually forceful presence, embody the ongoing usefulness in considering both fine art and mere utilitarian objects (these are both at once) as examples of shifting cultural expression of identities. Museum exhibitions including the enigmatic ivor ies reflect an abiding public interest in their meaning and value. Exhibitions provide a pu blic space for speculation about the new visual culture that emerged as a result of the global character of the Renaissance period. They also shed light onto how we conceptualize the global visual cultural en vironment today whose roots are located in the expansive modes of inquiry begun in the early modern period. The conundrum of how to conclusively identify the ivories and their originally intended meanings exemplifies their nebulous identities as diasporic objects. They were destined to be dispersed from their place of manufacture to elite European collections. Today they reside not only in Europe, but in museums and private co llections in the United States and Australia, themselves nations founded on dominantly European cultural and political models. Furthermore, unlike cultural heritage objects from the pres ent period, these diaspor ic objects cannot be claimed for anyones cultural heritage, since th e African and Portuguese cultures that produced them no longer exist as they di d in the sixteenth century.

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75 Delving into these issues produ ces more questions than answers: What was the identity of the ivory carvers? From what cu lture(s) did they come? Are the ivories authentic African art? Who defines authenticity? Does African art denote a geographic or a cultural identity (or both, neither)? By what criteria do we determine id entity? Is it a productive endeavor, or does it ultimately lead to biased assumpti ons about race, class, and gender? Since the seminal and infamous exhibition, Primitivism in Twentieth Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern in 1984, the word affinity ha s taken on negative connotations when applied to artistic exchange between the West and the Rest.2 Africanists and other scholars of non-Western art have since noted a nd condemned the Eurocen tric insinuation that affinities between supposedly ahistorical non-Wes tern primitive art and Western Modern art (inherently more civilized) somehow occurred on an imagined mystical and exotic level. The exhibition excluded such culturall y hybrid objects as the Afro-Por tuguese ivories, which would have been anathema to what its organizers considered authentic African art untouched by modernizing European influence, as though authenticity can only come from hermetically sealed uncivilized peoples. It is significant that Western artists such as Pablo Picasso (ironically Iberian, like the Portuguese explorers of the fifteenth and sixteenth century) appropriated nonWestern visual forms because of their primitively unlearned and spiritual qualities without regard for accurate religious or ideological contexts. However, in the case of the early contact ivor ies, perhaps the word affinity is in fact appropriate. While the ivories are by no means pr imitive in composition, technical execution, or conception, they do represent a prime moment in history where exchange between two distinct cultures drastically transformed not only an artistic practice, but also a way of visualizing new 2 See Chinweizu, The West and the Rest of Us: White Predators, Black Slavers and the African Elite (New York: Vintage Books, 1975).

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76 perspectives of the world. The merging of imag ery sources and possible conflation of the pale, seafaring Portuguese with the pale, aquatic realm of the dead i ndicates a genuine affinity and reciprocity between Portuguese a nd coastal Sierra Leonean peoples Perhaps African artists in reality had little or no interest in the intended Catholic meanings of the printed images that the Portuguese brought with them, and instead formed their own ideas about the meanings of the arrival of the Portuguese and the images they supplied as models into their own subjective and ethnocentric ideologies. Mirozoeff asserts that visual culture is defi ned by the modern tendency to picture or visualize existence3 however, this project hopes to extend th e definition to include the earliest moments of modernity and the diasporas of objects that emerged in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Mirzoeffs definition of transculturation as a three-way process involving the acquisition of certain aspects of a new culture, the loss of some older ones, and the third step of resolving these fragments of old and new into a coherent body, which may be more or less whole4 can be applied directly to the body of expor t ivory works from sixteenth-century Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone-Portuguese ivories al one remain as records of early modern transcultural movements of visual forms and visu alization of the first commercial, political, and technological collaboration between coasta l Africans and seafaring Portuguese. 3 Mirzoeff, Introduction to Visual Culture p. 5. 4 Mirzoeff, Introduction to Visual Culture p. 131.

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77 LIST OF REFERENCES Abraham Arthur. An Introduction to the Pre-Colonial Hi story of the Mende of Sierra Leone Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2003. Altab, David Fintz. The Significance of 1492 to the Jews and Muslims of Spain. Hispania 75(3) (Sept. 1992): 728-731. Appadurai, Arjun, ed. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Atherton, John H. and Milan Kalous. Nomoli. The Journal of African History 11(3) (1970):303-317. Barnet, Peter. Images in Ivory: Precious Ob jects of the Gothic Age Princeton, NJ: Detroit Institute of Arts and Prin ceton University Press, 1997. Gothic Sculpture in Ivory: An Introduction. Images in Ivory: Precious Objects of the Gothic Age Ed. Peter Barnet. Princeton, NJ: Detr oit Institute of Arts and Princeton University Press, 1997. 3-17. Bassani, Ezio. African Art and Artefacts in European Collections 1400-1800. London: The British Museum Press, 2000. Raphael at the Tropics? A Carved I vory Oliphant in the Musee de lHomme. Journal of the History of Collections 10(1) (1998):1-8. Arte Africana: Raffaello ai Tropici? Critica darte 58(4) (Oct.-Dec. 1995): 57-80. Additional Notes on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories. African Arts 27(3) (July 1994): 34-45. African Spoons for the Wunderkammern of the Renaissance. Spoons in Africa: CookingServingEatingEmblems of Abundance. ed. Lorenz Homberger. Zurich: Museum Reitberg, 1991. A Newly Discovered Afro-Portuguese Ivory. African Arts 17(4) (Aug. 1984): 60-63, 95. Un Corno Afro-Portoghese con Decorazione Africana. Critica darte 166-168 (1979): 167175. Gli Olifanti Afroportoghesi della Sierra Leone. Critica darte 163-165 (1979): 175-201. Oggetti Africani in Antiche Collezioni Italiane. Critica darte 151 (1977): 151-182, 154-56 (1977): 187-202. Antichi Avori Africani nelle Collezioni Medicee, 1-2. Critica darte 144 (1975): 8-23. Bassani, Ezio and William B. Fagg. Responses to the Review of Africa and the Renaissance. African Arts 23(3) (July 1990): 10-20.

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78 Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory. New York: The Center fo r African Art and PrestelVerlag, 1988. Bhabha, Homi K. Double Visions. Artforum 30(5) (January 1992): 85-89. Reprinted in Grasping the World: The Idea of the Museum Donald Preziosi and Claire Farago, eds. Handts, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2004: 236-241. The Location of Culture London and New York: Routledge, 1994. Birmingham, David. The Portuguese and the Africans. The Journal of African History 5(2) (1964): 324-325. Blackmun, Barbara W. More on Africa and the Renaissance: Rejoinder from Blackmun. African Arts 23(4) (Oct. 1990): 16, 93. Review of exhibition catalogue for Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory by Ezio Bassani and William Fagg. African Arts 23(1) (November 1989): 12-20. Art as Statecraft: A Kings Justification in Ivory: a carved tusk from Benin. Geneva: Muse Barbier-Mller, 1984. Blier, Suzanne Preston. Imaging Otherness in Ivory: African Port rayals of the Portuguese ca. 1492. The Art Bulletin 75(3) (Sept. 1993):375-396. Brandauer, Aline. Practicing Modernism: for the masters tools will never dismantle the masters house. Diaspora and Visual Culture. Ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff London and New York: Routledge, 2000, pp. 254-261. Brooks, George E. The Signares: Entrepreneurial African Women. Problems in African History: The Precolonial Centuries 3rd ed. Ed. Robert O. Collins. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2005, pp. 213-221. Eurafricans in Western Africa: Commerce Soc ial Status, Gender, and Religious Observance from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2003. Landlords and Strangers: Ecology, Socie ty, and Trade in Western Africa, 1000-1630. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993. Burrack, Benjamin. Ivory and Its Uses Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1984. Carr, Massimo. Ivories of the West Trans. Raymond Rudorff. London: Hamlyn Publishing Group, 1970. Carreira, Antnio. The People of the Cape Verde Islands: Exploitati on and Emigration. Trans. from the Portuguese and edited by Christoph er Fyfe. London: C. Hurst; Hamden, CT Archon Books, 1982. Cellini, Benvenuto. Autobiography. Trans. by George Bull. London: Penguin Books, 1998.

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79 Cembelest, Robin. Exhibition review of Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory ARTnews 88 (September 1989): 182. Chinweizu. The West and the Rest of Us: White Pre dators, Black Slavers and the African Elite New York: Vintage Books, 1975. Clifford, James. The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth -Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988. Collins, Robert O., ed. Problems in African History: The Precolonial Centuries 3rd ed. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2005. Curnow, Kathy. "Oberlin's Sierra Leonean Salt cellar: Documenting Bi cultural Dialogue." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 44 (1991):13-23. Rejoinder from Curnow. African Arts 23(4) (October 1990): 16-22, 89-90. Alien or Accepted: African Persp ectives on the Western Other in 15th and 16th Century Art. Society for Visual Anthropology Review 6(1) (Spring 1990):38-44. Exhibition review of African and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory African Arts 22 (August 1989): 76-77. "The Afro-Portuguese Ivories: Classification and Stylistic Anal ysis of a Hybrid Art Form." Ph.D. Diss., Indiana University, 1983. Ann Arbor: UMI. AAT 8317158. Delaforce, Angela. Review: Th e Portuguese Discoveries, Lisbon. The Burlington Magazine 125(966) (Sept. 1983): 576-579. Dittmer, Kunz. Bedeutung, Daierung und kulturhistorische Zusammenhnge der prhistorischen Steinfiguren aus Sierra Leone und Guine. Baessler-Archiv, n.s. 15 (1967): 183-238. Drer, Albrecht. Albrecht Durer: Diary of his Journey to the Netherlands, 1520-1521. Trans. from the French by Philip Troutman. Greenwi ch, CT.: New York Graphic Society, 1971. Ezra, Kate. African Ivories. New York: Metropolita n Museum of Art, 1984. Fagg, William B. Divine Kingship in Africa London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1970. Afro-Portuguese Ivories. London: Batchworth Press, 1959. Farago, Claire, Ed. Reframing the Renaissance: Visual cu lture in Europe and Latin America, 1450-1650. New Haven and London, 1995. Fernandes, Valentim. Description de la Cte Occidentale d Afrique (Sngal au Cape de Monte, Archipels) 1506-1510. Eds. and trans. T. Monod, A. Texeira de Mota, R. Mauny. Bissau: Centro de Estudios da Guin Portuguesa, 1951.

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83 Prussin, Labelle. Judaic Threads in the West African Tapestry: No More Forever? Art Bulletin 88(2) (June 2006): 328-353. Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa revised ed. Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1981. Ross, Doran H. Elephant: The Animal and Its Ivory in African Culture Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History and Un iversity of California, 1992. Imagining Elephants: An Overview. Elephant: The Animal and Its Ivory in African Culture. Ed. Doran H. Ross. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA, 1992. 1-39. Ross, Emma George. Afro-Portuguese Ivories. Timeline of Art History New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-. (October 2002; accessed May 1, 2007) "The Portuguese in Africa, 1415-1600." Timeline of Art History New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-. (October 2002; accessed May 1, 2007) Ryder, Alan F. C. A Note on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories. The Journal of African History 5(3) (1964): 363-365. St Aubyn, Fiona, ed. Ivory: An International Hi story and Illustrated Survey New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1987. Seipel, Wilfried. Exotica: Portugals Entdeckungen im Spiegel frstlicher Kunstund Wunderkammern der Renaissance. Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum, 2000. Shalem, Avinoam. The Oliphant: Islamic Object s in Historical Context Leiden: Brill, 2004. Shohani, Jeheskel. The African Elephant in Its Environment. Elephant: The Animal and Its Ivory in African Culture. Doran H. Ross, ed. Los Angele s: Fowler Museum of Cultural History and University of California, 1992. 43-59. Sieber, Roy. Remarks by Sieber. African Arts 23(4) (October 1990): 90. Steiner, Christopher B. African Art in Transit. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Tagliaferri, Aldo and Arno Hammacher. Fabulous Ancestors: Stone Carvings from Sierra Leone and Guinea New York: Africana Publishing Co., 1974. Vison, Monica Blackmun, Robin Poynor, Herb ert M. Cole, and Michael D. Harris. A History of Art in Africa. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 2001.

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84 Vogel, Susan. Responses to the Review of Africa and the Renaissance. African Arts 23(3) (July 1990): 10. Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory. African Arts 22(2) (Feb. 1989): 84-89, 104. Introduction. Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory. Ezio Bassani and William Fagg. New York: The Center for African Art and Prestel-Verlag, 1988. 12-20. Voorhies, James. "Europe a nd the Age of Exploration." Timeline of Art History New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-. < http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/expl/hd_expl.htm > (October 2002; accessed May 1, 2007) Willett, Frank. Review of exhibition catalogue for Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory by Ezio Bassani and William Fagg. The Burlington Magazine 131(1041) (December 1989): 856-857.

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85 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Eugenia (Genia) Soledad Martinez earned a B.A. in art history at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC in 2001 where she graduated sum ma cum laude Following her completion of the M.A. in art history with a concentration in Afri can art in Fall 2007, Ms. Martinez will begin the Ph.D. program in art history at the University of Florida.