The artist's technical virtuosity is evident in this extraordinary armlet carved from one piece of ivory. The motifs on the outer interlocking piece include kneeling hunchbacks holding tethered creatures. Hunchbacks are regarded as touched by the god Obatala who shapes the human form in the womb. White is the symbolic color of Obatala and may tie in with the use of ivory for this bracelet. The theme of ritual offerings is suggested by the disembodied heads within the interlocking circles of crocodiles biting the heads and tails of mudfish and by the tethered creatures. These creatures have been described as monkeys however they resemble Ofoe, the messenger of the god of death in the Benin Kingdom, who has no body only a head and arms and legs.
Ivory bracelet with entire surface carved with human-like figures, heads and animals in high relief on a background of fine lattice rectangular panels. Ivory bead-like additions hang from the carved rings to the side and to each end.
Harry G. Beasley (1882-1939), Cranmore Ethnographical Museum, Chislehurst, Kent, England, -- to 1975
Paul and Ruth Tishman, New York, 1975 to 1984
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 4, 2017-ongoing
The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection Highlights, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., May 21, 2009-June 4, 2014
African Vision: The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., February 15, 2007-March 31, 2009
First Look: The Walt Disney-Tishman Collection of African Art, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., May 17-December 3, 2006
Art of the Personal Object, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 24, 1991-April 9, 2007
African Ivories. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, June 26, 1984-December 30, 1984
For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1981
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Ezra, Kate. 1984. African Ivories. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 22, fig. 18-19, cat. no.24.
Graves Son & Pilcher. 1975. The Collection of Tibetan ritual art, Oceanic, Haida, Eskimo, Benin, Maori and Asian artifacts formally at the Cranmore Ethnographical Museum, Chislehurst, Kent, formed by the late Harry G. Beasley, 1882-1939 ... 3rd March 1975. Palmeira Auction Room, Hove. Brighton: Dolphin Press, lot 216.
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Ross, Doran (ed). 1992. Elephant: The Animal and Its Ivory in African Culture. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History, University of California, p. 201, no. 9-18A, B.
Vogel, Susan (ed). 1981. For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 128-130, no. 72.