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Fragment of a Saltcellar

Arts of Africa

During the first half of the sixteenth century, Sapi craftsmen in Sierra Leone became famous for carving ivory objects for export to Europeans. This “saltcellar” actually was never meant to hold salt, but served as an ornamental pedestal cup. Now missing its lid, the cup originally had a series of four human figures—two males wearing trousers (most likely depictions of Europeans) and two nude females—alternating with four dogs around the base. Only fragments of these carved human and animal figures remain.
  • Place Made: Sierra Leone
  • DATES 16th century
    DIMENSIONS 6 3/8in. (16.2cm) Other (Diameter of bottom): 6 3/8 x 4 5/8 x 4 5/8 in. (16.2 x 11.7 x 11.7 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alastair B. Martin, the Guennol Collection
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Base of a "salt cellar" of chalice type. The cup stands on a convex circular base decorated with curved lines of "beaded" ivory. The stem is decorated with rows of this beading technique and has a large circular flange in the middle also decorated with "beading" and some figures in relief. The cup is decorated with bands and curving lines of "beading" as well as animals anad human figures in relief around the lower half, (4 humans, 4 animals). CONDITION: parts of the upper cup are missing, the figures in relief are badly damaged and missing. Parts of the circular base are badly damaged.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Sapi. Fragment of a Saltcellar, 16th century. Ivory, 6 3/8in. (16.2cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alastair B. Martin, the Guennol Collection, 52.169. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 52.169_SL1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 52.169_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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