People of Color in European Art History


  1. aseantoo submitted to medievalpoc:

Unknown artist, possibly of the Brazilian School
Black Artist Completing a Portrait of a White Female Aristocrat
Brazil (early 1700s)
Oil on canvas
Philadelphia private collection
[x], [x]
I was thrilled at first to see this image - a pre-modern Black woman artist, portrayed at work! But then I saw this:
Although this black artist appears to be wearing a dress, it is likely to be a male figure. As the scholar Sheldon Cheek explains, the artist wears an earring and a silver collar, both common articles worn by black male servants/slaves in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, the collar traditionally indicating slave status. Women rarely, if ever, wore the silver collar. The artist also appears to be wearing a silver “shackle” on the arm.
Ugh. Pretty awful.

I think we should all be pretty critical of what’s written about this painting. Especially the part you’ve quoted above about how they have assigned the gender of the artist in the painting. I find it bizarre that something that is supposed to indicate enslaved status (not gender) somehow trumps this person wearing women’s clothing (that’s also a woman’s hat to the best of my knowledge).
The Americas, including Brazil, have a long tradition of transgender and third gender people. This is one of those images from the past that falls quite easily through the cracks because it is a collection of “exceptions”; it doesn’t fit nicely into categories that have been created and therefore, it’s more or less ignored.
If anyone’s hesitant to be critical, maybe you should also note that both the articles linked above make claims that slavery in Brazil was “less harsh” than other places. What???
How many of our assumptions are being projected onto this painting? Are the “contradictions” present in it a product of the painting itself, or is the problem with the categories we try to place it in? How many layers do we have to fight uphill through when we even look at this image? After all, History teaches us:
women weren’t artists
Black people weren’t artists
Black people were enslaved
Enslaved people didn’t do anything of worth
Transgender, genderqueer and third gender people didn’t exist before the 1960s
white people control how Black images are perceived, but not the other way around
gender must be immediately perceivable and fit into our categories of “male” and “female”
^ So this is the baggage we bring with us when we look at this image. We look at this painting, and we actively search for indicators that allow us to continue to believe the above assumptions.
If we take away those assumptions, if we try to move past them and see this portrait with new eyes, what are we left with? Whose History do we see here? Maybe it’s mine; maybe it’s yours.

    aseantoo submitted to medievalpoc:

    Unknown artist, possibly of the Brazilian School

    Black Artist Completing a Portrait of a White Female Aristocrat

    Brazil (early 1700s)

    Oil on canvas

    Philadelphia private collection

    [x], [x]

    I was thrilled at first to see this image - a pre-modern Black woman artist, portrayed at work! But then I saw this:

    Although this black artist appears to be wearing a dress, it is likely to be a male figure. As the scholar Sheldon Cheek explains, the artist wears an earring and a silver collar, both common articles worn by black male servants/slaves in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, the collar traditionally indicating slave status. Women rarely, if ever, wore the silver collar. The artist also appears to be wearing a silver “shackle” on the arm.

    Ugh. Pretty awful.

    I think we should all be pretty critical of what’s written about this painting. Especially the part you’ve quoted above about how they have assigned the gender of the artist in the painting. I find it bizarre that something that is supposed to indicate enslaved status (not gender) somehow trumps this person wearing women’s clothing (that’s also a woman’s hat to the best of my knowledge).

    The Americas, including Brazil, have a long tradition of transgender and third gender people. This is one of those images from the past that falls quite easily through the cracks because it is a collection of “exceptions”; it doesn’t fit nicely into categories that have been created and therefore, it’s more or less ignored.

    If anyone’s hesitant to be critical, maybe you should also note that both the articles linked above make claims that slavery in Brazil was “less harsh” than other places. What???

    How many of our assumptions are being projected onto this painting? Are the “contradictions” present in it a product of the painting itself, or is the problem with the categories we try to place it in? How many layers do we have to fight uphill through when we even look at this image? After all, History teaches us:

    • women weren’t artists
    • Black people weren’t artists
    • Black people were enslaved
    • Enslaved people didn’t do anything of worth
    • Transgender, genderqueer and third gender people didn’t exist before the 1960s
    • white people control how Black images are perceived, but not the other way around
    • gender must be immediately perceivable and fit into our categories of “male” and “female”

    ^ So this is the baggage we bring with us when we look at this image. We look at this painting, and we actively search for indicators that allow us to continue to believe the above assumptions.

    If we take away those assumptions, if we try to move past them and see this portrait with new eyes, what are we left with? Whose History do we see here? Maybe it’s mine; maybe it’s yours.

  2. skemono submitted to medievalpoc:

    Given this recent submission, I thought I’d submit this today.

    Matthew Restall wrote, “Wherever Spaniards set foot in the Americas as members of conquest companies they were accompanied by black conquistadors.” One such person was Juan Garrido, about whose life we know a fair amount, though many details remain sketchy. Also, some historians have provided postulations to fill in the gaps, and other people have run with those as fact, so some of the below may not be accurate, but I’ll try my best.

    Most people seem to be agreed that he was probably born somewhere in West Africa around 1480 (some sites give the date of birth as exactly 1487, though I don’t know how reliable that is). At some point in his youth, he came to Lisbon, where he adopted Christianity, and later moved to Castile and lived there for seven years. Some people suggest that he was brought to Portugal as a slave, though this is probably in part at least due to a desire to assume that all black people who came to Europe were slaves—I believe there is no real evidence that he was one. (There are records of a Portuguese slave named João Garrido being freed by João II, the future king, in 1477, but this is probably too old to be the Garrido in question.)

    Some have also noted that he shared the surname of the Spanish conquistador Pedro Garrido, and extrapolated from this that he may have been Pedro’s slave or servant, and adopted the family name. I think this was first proposed by Peter Gerhard, who admitted “this is pure conjecture”, but other people seem to accept it as fact. However, Gerhard writes that Pedro Garrido landed in Santo Domingo in 1510. Juan Garrido, meanwhile, wrote in a 1538 petition that he had been serving the Spanish king for thirty years, and listed among his feats “I went to discover and pacify the islands of San Juan de Buriquén de Puerto Rico; and also as I went on the pacification and conquest of the island of Cuba with the adelantado Diego Velázquez.” This would place him in Puerto Rico with Ponce de León in 1508, and then in Cuba with Diego Velázquez in 1511. So, I don’t think he was serving a Spanish family in-between that, but there may be other information out there I don’t have access to.

    (As a completely irrelevant aside, “garrido” means “good-looking” in Spanish, so you could Anglicize his name as “Handsome John” if you were so inclined, which I am.)

    Many people also write that Garrido accompanied Ponce de León to Florida in 1513, which I’m tentatively accepting, though I haven’t been able to find someone citing a primary source for that. We do know that he was with Hernán Cortés when they destroyed Tenochtitlán (Pedro Garrido was also with Cortés then, fueling further speculation that Juan was his servant). He lived in Mexico City for some years after that. During that time, he was apparently the first person to plant and grow wheat in the western hemisphere. The conquistador Andrés de Tapia wrote “after Mexico was taken, and while [Cortés] was in Coyoacán, they brought him a small amount of rice, and in it were three grains of wheat; he ordered a free Negro to plant them.” Garrido himself said he “was the first to plant and harvest wheat”, though in his petition he said that he had the inspiration to do so, not that he was ordered by Cortés. Whichever the case, he was certainly successful, and Cortés ordered that wheat be planted in all the villages.

    Garrido continued to do other things. For a while he had several duties in Mexico City; he took a group of slaves to mine for gold in Zacatula; he was part of Cortés’s expedition to Baja California in 1533, with a retinue of slaves for mining. He did not have much success mining for gold, leading to his 1538 probanza, a proof of merit for his petition to the king to receive a pension:

    I, Juan Garrido, black resident [de color negro vecino] of this city [Mexico], appear before Your Mercy and state that I am in need of making aprobanza to the perpetuity of the king [a perpetuad rey], a report on how I served Your Majesty in the conquest and pacification of this New Spain, from the time when the Marqués del Valle [Cortés] entered it; and in his company I was present at all the invasions and conquests and pacifications which were carried out, always with the said Marqués, all of which I did at my own expense without being given either salary or allotment of natives [repartimiento de indios] or anything else. As I am married and a resident of this city, where I have always lived; and also as I went with the Marqués del Valle to discover the islands which are in that part of the southern sea [the Pacific] where there was much hunger and privation; and also as I went to discover and pacify the islands of San Juan de Buriquén de Puerto Rico; and also as I went on the pacification and conquest of the island of Cuba with the adelantado Diego Velázquez; in all these ways for thirty years have I served and continue to serve Your Majesty—for these reasons stated above do I petition Your Mercy. And also because I was the first to have the inspiration to sow maize [wheat] here in New Spain and to see if it took; I did this and experimented at my own expense.

    We have little other information on him. He probably died in Mexico City around 1547.

    I write this not because it is great that people of African descent could also enslave and murder Native Americans, but because it shows one of the avenues open to black Spaniards of the time. There were many other black conquistadors (though a lot of them were slaves): Sebastián Toral, Juan Valiente, Juan Beltrán, etc. The images above are often credited as being depictions of Juan Garrido, but that’s mostly because people treat Garrido as the only black person with Cortés, which was not the case.

    Images:

    Fray Diego Durán, História de las Indias de Nueva España e Islas de la Tierra Firme, 1581. Illustrations on pages 413, 416.

    Further reading:

    Peter Gerhard, “A Black Conquistador in Mexico”, The Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 58, no. 3 (Aug., 1978), pp. 451-459

    Matthew Restall, “Black Conquistadors: Armed Africans in Early Spanish America”, The Americas, vol. 57, no. 2 (Oct., 2000), pp. 171-205

    Ricardo E. Alegría, Juan Garrido, el Conquistador Negro en las Antillas, Florida, México y California, c. 1503-1540. Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y El Caribe, 1990.

    [X] [X] [X] [X] [X] [X] [X] [X]

    An excellent and fascinating submission as always! Thank you for sharing your research.

  3. rejectedprincesses:

Nzinga Mbande, Mother of Angola (1583-1663)
Here’s another one of my favorite Rejected Princesses — Nzinga Mbande, 17th-century queen of what is now Angola. 
She began her political life as her nation of Ndongo was fighting off a Portuguese invasion. Her brother, a by-all-accounts wimp, seemingly could not bend over backwards far enough for the Portuguese, and once he ascended to the throne, the Portuguese just tossed him in jail and took over. Nzinga approached the Portuguese and demanded her brother’s return and that they leave Ndongo. At their meeting, in a sign of disrespect, the Portuguese offered her no chair to sit in, instead providing merely a floor mat fit for servants.
In response, Nzinga ordered one of her servants to get on all fours, sitting on her as she would a chair. After the negotiations concluded, according to some accounts (more on that later), she slit her throat in full view of everyone, and informed them that the Queen of Ndongo does not use the same chair twice. Shortly thereafter, the Portuguese agreed to let her brother go.
With her brother now safely back home, she is said (again, more on that later) to have murdered him in his sleep, killed her brother’s son, and assumed the throne herself - because if you’re going to do something right, you better do it yourself. From there, she moved south, started a new country, conquered the infamous ruthless cannibal tribe known as the Jaga, began offering sanctuary to runaway slaves and defector soldiers, and waged war on the Portuguese for THIRTY FIVE YEARS. 
Now, you may have noticed that I have repeatedly used words like “supposedly” and “according to some accounts.” As with many powerful historical women (as you’ll come to see as you read more of these entries), her story is a mixture of fact and fiction, with the two difficult to separate. That she met with the Portuguese and that she sat on her servant’s back is generally agreed by historians to be accurate. Furthermore, there is no doubt that she was a thorn in the side of the Portuguese, that she founded a new nation, or that she was a great leader.
Where it begins to fall to suspicion is in the more salacious rumors. While some report that she murdered her brother, others report that her brother committed suicide. Her slitting the servant girl’s neck and proclaiming her need for one-use chairs is likely hyperbole. Other outlandish rumors, to be taken with a brick of salt, include:
After killing her brother’s family, she ate their hearts to absorb their courage. 
As a pre-battle ritual, she decapitated slaves and drank their blood. 
She maintained a 60-man-strong harem throughout her life — this one, best I can tell, is more regarded as true than most of the others.
The men in her harem would fight each other to the death for the right to share her bed for the night. This one is more doubtful.
She also apparently dressed some of them like women.
Conversely, she staffed her army with a large number of women warriors.
It is difficult to determine how much of this is fact and how much fiction — it is entirely possible that she stirred up some of this as her own PR in the war against Portugal, and it is entirely possible some of it was a smear campaign by her enemies. Based off my (ongoing) research, a lot seems to stem from a book called Zingha, Reine d’Angola by Jean-Louis Castilhon. The book is in French, though, and I haven’t been able to find much English-language information on it yet.
Anyways, after decades of killing the Portuguese (both militarily and economically, cutting off their trade routes), they eventually threw their hands up and negotiated a peace treaty. She died several years afterwards, at the ripe old age of eighty-one. There are statues of her all over Angola to this day.
CITATIONS
Many people have (rightfully) been clamoring for citations on some of the more outlandish rumors here. I’ve wanted to hold off until I got to the actual origin of some of them, but I’ll release now what I have.
The at-the-time rumors about her seem to have largely stemmed from a Dutch captain named Fuller, who claimed he saw her dance wildly, stick a feather in her nose, decapitate a sacrificial victim, and drink “a great draught of his blood.” He nevertheless respected her greatly and described her as “generously valiant.” An excerpt from his notes can be found in Battle Cries and Lullabies: Women in War from Prehistory to the Present by Linda Grant de Pauw.
The rumors that she killed her brother, nephew, had a great harem, dressed them like women, and practiced cannibalism can be found in A Military History of Africa by Timothy J Stapleton (as well as many other books).
The rumors of her killing the slave whom she had used as a chair, proclaiming that she never used the same chair twice, that she killed her kin and ate them, and that she killed members of her harem can be found in Women Warriors by Rosalind Miles and Robin Cross.
I reached out to Robin Cross and Rosalind Miles for help in further research — as I don’t have physical access to Women Warriors, and I can’t check its bibliography online. Mr. Cross wrote me back suggesting I look up Portuguese Africa by Ronald Chilcote (1959).
I tracked down Portuguese Africa, and it has no reference to the slitting-throat legend (although the sitting-on-servant one is represented). I reached out to Mr. Cross again, but have yet to hear back.
In the meanwhile, I picked up another book by Cross and Miles, Hell Hath No Fury: True Profiles of Women at War from Antiquity to Iraq, which repeats the throat-slitting legend, but provides no bibliography other than Chilcote’s Portuguese Africa.
I’ve also found the throat-slitting legend repeated in Antonia Fraser’s The Warrior Queens, but with no specific source. At this point, worrying this is something I won’t be able to get to the bottom of.
I have also reached out to a scholar who is currently writing a book on Nzinga for help in uncovering additional sources of the rumors about her.
I will continue to update this entry as I am able to uncover more reliable information about her.
Art notes:
Her outfit and axe are derived directly from one of the statues around Angola.
The servant she used as a chair was female, not male. I realized this after the fact. Eep!
She’s wiping a bit of something red from her mouth as a reference to the blood-ingesting legends.

    rejectedprincesses:

    Nzinga Mbande, Mother of Angola (1583-1663)

    Here’s another one of my favorite Rejected Princesses — Nzinga Mbande, 17th-century queen of what is now Angola. 

    She began her political life as her nation of Ndongo was fighting off a Portuguese invasion. Her brother, a by-all-accounts wimp, seemingly could not bend over backwards far enough for the Portuguese, and once he ascended to the throne, the Portuguese just tossed him in jail and took over. Nzinga approached the Portuguese and demanded her brother’s return and that they leave Ndongo. At their meeting, in a sign of disrespect, the Portuguese offered her no chair to sit in, instead providing merely a floor mat fit for servants.

    In response, Nzinga ordered one of her servants to get on all fours, sitting on her as she would a chair. After the negotiations concluded, according to some accounts (more on that later), she slit her throat in full view of everyone, and informed them that the Queen of Ndongo does not use the same chair twice. Shortly thereafter, the Portuguese agreed to let her brother go.

    With her brother now safely back home, she is said (again, more on that later) to have murdered him in his sleep, killed her brother’s son, and assumed the throne herself - because if you’re going to do something right, you better do it yourself. From there, she moved south, started a new country, conquered the infamous ruthless cannibal tribe known as the Jaga, began offering sanctuary to runaway slaves and defector soldiers, and waged war on the Portuguese for THIRTY FIVE YEARS. 

    Now, you may have noticed that I have repeatedly used words like “supposedly” and “according to some accounts.” As with many powerful historical women (as you’ll come to see as you read more of these entries), her story is a mixture of fact and fiction, with the two difficult to separate. That she met with the Portuguese and that she sat on her servant’s back is generally agreed by historians to be accurate. Furthermore, there is no doubt that she was a thorn in the side of the Portuguese, that she founded a new nation, or that she was a great leader.

    Where it begins to fall to suspicion is in the more salacious rumors. While some report that she murdered her brother, others report that her brother committed suicide. Her slitting the servant girl’s neck and proclaiming her need for one-use chairs is likely hyperbole. Other outlandish rumors, to be taken with a brick of salt, include:

    • After killing her brother’s family, she ate their hearts to absorb their courage.
    • As a pre-battle ritual, she decapitated slaves and drank their blood.
    • She maintained a 60-man-strong harem throughout her life — this one, best I can tell, is more regarded as true than most of the others.
    • The men in her harem would fight each other to the death for the right to share her bed for the night. This one is more doubtful.
    • She also apparently dressed some of them like women.
    • Conversely, she staffed her army with a large number of women warriors.

    It is difficult to determine how much of this is fact and how much fiction — it is entirely possible that she stirred up some of this as her own PR in the war against Portugal, and it is entirely possible some of it was a smear campaign by her enemies. Based off my (ongoing) research, a lot seems to stem from a book called Zingha, Reine d’Angola by Jean-Louis Castilhon. The book is in French, though, and I haven’t been able to find much English-language information on it yet.

    Anyways, after decades of killing the Portuguese (both militarily and economically, cutting off their trade routes), they eventually threw their hands up and negotiated a peace treaty. She died several years afterwards, at the ripe old age of eighty-one. There are statues of her all over Angola to this day.

    CITATIONS

    Many people have (rightfully) been clamoring for citations on some of the more outlandish rumors here. I’ve wanted to hold off until I got to the actual origin of some of them, but I’ll release now what I have.

    • The at-the-time rumors about her seem to have largely stemmed from a Dutch captain named Fuller, who claimed he saw her dance wildly, stick a feather in her nose, decapitate a sacrificial victim, and drink “a great draught of his blood.” He nevertheless respected her greatly and described her as “generously valiant.” An excerpt from his notes can be found in Battle Cries and Lullabies: Women in War from Prehistory to the Present by Linda Grant de Pauw.
    • The rumors that she killed her brother, nephew, had a great harem, dressed them like women, and practiced cannibalism can be found in A Military History of Africa by Timothy J Stapleton (as well as many other books).
    • The rumors of her killing the slave whom she had used as a chair, proclaiming that she never used the same chair twice, that she killed her kin and ate them, and that she killed members of her harem can be found in Women Warriors by Rosalind Miles and Robin Cross.
    • I reached out to Robin Cross and Rosalind Miles for help in further research — as I don’t have physical access to Women Warriors, and I can’t check its bibliography online. Mr. Cross wrote me back suggesting I look up Portuguese Africa by Ronald Chilcote (1959).
    • I tracked down Portuguese Africa, and it has no reference to the slitting-throat legend (although the sitting-on-servant one is represented). I reached out to Mr. Cross again, but have yet to hear back.
    • In the meanwhile, I picked up another book by Cross and Miles, Hell Hath No Fury: True Profiles of Women at War from Antiquity to Iraq, which repeats the throat-slitting legend, but provides no bibliography other than Chilcote’s Portuguese Africa.
    • I’ve also found the throat-slitting legend repeated in Antonia Fraser’s The Warrior Queens, but with no specific source. At this point, worrying this is something I won’t be able to get to the bottom of.
    • I have also reached out to a scholar who is currently writing a book on Nzinga for help in uncovering additional sources of the rumors about her.
    • I will continue to update this entry as I am able to uncover more reliable information about her.

    Art notes:

    • Her outfit and axe are derived directly from one of the statues around Angola.
    • The servant she used as a chair was female, not male. I realized this after the fact. Eep!
    • She’s wiping a bit of something red from her mouth as a reference to the blood-ingesting legends.
  4. naterlies submitted to medievalpoc:

I came across this panel in the V&A when I visited it last week - it’s more of the depictions of whiteness by POC variety than the other way around, but hopefully it will be useful!
I had some trouble attaching my own photo so here’s a link to download the V&A’s photo from their archive. The panel is estimated to have been made between 1700 and 1825.
http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O106897/panel-unknown/
"This embroidered hanging depicts the martyrdom of St Sebastian (traditionally believed to have taken place around 288). The red silk background (now faded) is the colour associated with the commemoration of Christian martyrs in the Roman Catholic Church. This textile was probably used during a religious procession. It may have been produced by Chinese embroiderers in Macao or Canton, either for Portuguese colonial settlers in Macau, or for export to Portuguese colonies."
Thanks for all the great work you do, you’ve brought a new level of critical thinking to the front of my mind and it really enriched my experience as I traveled and visited museums these last few weeks. I should be able to submit more things I’ve found once I’ve sorted out my photos and sources!

This is really cool! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Chinese work depicting Saint Sebastian, specifically.

    naterlies submitted to medievalpoc:

    I came across this panel in the V&A when I visited it last week - it’s more of the depictions of whiteness by POC variety than the other way around, but hopefully it will be useful!

    I had some trouble attaching my own photo so here’s a link to download the V&A’s photo from their archive. The panel is estimated to have been made between 1700 and 1825.

    http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O106897/panel-unknown/

    "This embroidered hanging depicts the martyrdom of St Sebastian (traditionally believed to have taken place around 288). The red silk background (now faded) is the colour associated with the commemoration of Christian martyrs in the Roman Catholic Church. This textile was probably used during a religious procession. It may have been produced by Chinese embroiderers in Macao or Canton, either for Portuguese colonial settlers in Macau, or for export to Portuguese colonies."

    Thanks for all the great work you do, you’ve brought a new level of critical thinking to the front of my mind and it really enriched my experience as I traveled and visited museums these last few weeks. I should be able to submit more things I’ve found once I’ve sorted out my photos and sources!

    This is really cool! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Chinese work depicting Saint Sebastian, specifically.

  5. att. Kano Domi

    Namban Byobu (detail): Portuguese Merchants Arriving at a Japanese Port

    Edo period, Japan (c. 1590-1600)

    [x] [x] [x]

    Namban Art

  6. att. Kano Domi

    Namban Byobu (detail)

    Edo period, Japan (c. 1590-1600)

     [x] [x]

    Namban Art

  7. att. Kano Domi
Namban Byobu (detail): A Portuguese Merchant and a Japanese Noble Confer
Edo period, Japan (c. 1590-1600)
[x] [x] [x]
Namban Art

    att. Kano Domi

    Namban Byobu (detail): A Portuguese Merchant and a Japanese Noble Confer

    Edo period, Japan (c. 1590-1600)

    [x] [x] [x]

    Namban Art

  8. att. Kano Naizen
Namban Byobu (detail)
Japan, Edo period (c. 1570-1600)
[x]
Namban Art

    att. Kano Naizen

    Namban Byobu (detail)

    Japan, Edo period (c. 1570-1600)

    [x]

    Namban Art

  9. att. Kano Domi
Namban Byobu (fragment)
Edo period, Japan (c. 1590-1600)
[x]
Namban Art

    att. Kano Domi

    Namban Byobu (fragment)

    Edo period, Japan (c. 1590-1600)

    [x]

    Namban Art

  10. Unknown Artist
Saltcellar with Carved European Figures
Benin (c. 1525)
Carved Ivory, 19.2 x 9.8 cm.
This salt cellar, despite being incomplete, demonstrates the mastery with which the craftsmen of Benin (what is now Nigeria), combined European iconography with local decorative motifs, creating pieces of great originality intended for a discriminating clientele. This object, though incomplete, is a highly dynamic sculpture that expresses the tension of the rider on the lid, and the movement of the figures alternating around the cup. The keen aesthetic is an excellent example of the production of exquisite pieces of custom ivory, especially in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as a result of the Portuguese presence on the west coast of Africa.
-Museo Nacional de Arte Antiga
(sorry for my poor translation)

    Unknown Artist

    Saltcellar with Carved European Figures

    Benin (c. 1525)

    Carved Ivory, 19.2 x 9.8 cm.

    This salt cellar, despite being incomplete, demonstrates the mastery with which the craftsmen of Benin (what is now Nigeria), combined European iconography with local decorative motifs, creating pieces of great originality intended for a discriminating clientele. This object, though incomplete, is a highly dynamic sculpture that expresses the tension of the rider on the lid, and the movement of the figures alternating around the cup. The keen aesthetic is an excellent example of the production of exquisite pieces of custom ivory, especially in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as a result of the Portuguese presence on the west coast of Africa.

    -Museo Nacional de Arte Antiga

    (sorry for my poor translation)