Salt cellar

Salt cellar

ca. 1490-1530

Swirling crocodiles adorn this early example of tourist art. Portuguese explorers saw talented carvers at work during their initial voyages down the coast of West Africa. They commissioned ivory carvings to take back to their patrons, usually Renaissance kings and nobility. The cellars were prominently displayed on dining tables to dispense salt, a treasured commodity at that time. While serving as a dining implement, the salts also were likely to spark conversations about the newly discovered lands and cultures of Africa.
8 1/8 x 2 9/16 x 2 11/16 in. (20.7 x 6.5 x 6.8 cm)
Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection
Not currently on view


Published ReferencesBlier, Suzanne Preston, Imaging Otherness in Ivory: African Portrayals of the Portuguese ca. 1492, in The Art Bulletin, Vol. 75, No. 3, Sept. 1993, illus. p. 392, no. 19

The Brooklyn Museum catalogue, Masterpieces of African Art, (1954-5), no. 127, ill and pp. 15, 46

Fagg, W. P. Afro-Portuguese Ivories, (1900, 1983), p. XXI (not ill.)

Hart, W. A. Woodcarving of the Limba of Sierra Leone, in African Arts, Vol. 23 No. 1 (Nov 1989), p. 44-53+103.

Joice, Gail, Michael Knight, and Pamela McClusky, Ivories in the Collection of the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1987, no. 15, pp. 20-21

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