Even with its broken beak, this luminous ivory spoon seems to exemplify age and tradition. It was, however, actually created during a time of great change and innovation in Benin art and culture.
Ivory spoons, saltcellars and hunting horns featuring European subjects were made for export. Edo artists brought local techniques and fine craftsmanship to the creation of objects and motifs for the foreign market. The bird on this spoon, however, with its outspread wings resembles those in traditional Benin art-the large birds that crowned the tower roofs of the king's (oba) palace and the bird found on gongs. The bird symbolizes the overwhelming spiritual and military power of Oba Esigie (c.1550).