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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Salt cellar

Salt cellar

ca. 1490-1530

Two continents mingle together in this container. Africans carved the ivory, and left traces of their features in the faces. European elements are evident in the clothes, keys, and bands of decoration that are typical of architecture under Emanuel I, King of Portugal from 1495-1521. A Portuguese report identifies Sierra Leone as the source for the artistic talent who "could carve in ivory any work which we draw for them." After completion, such an ivory would have graced the dining table of nobility during the Renaissance.
12 3/16 x 7 7/16 x 4 1/2 in. (31 x 18.9 x 11.4 cm)
Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryKansas City, Missouri, The Nelson Gallery and Atkins Museum, The Imagination of Primitive Man, 1962

Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art, "African Tribal Images: the Katherine White Reswick Collection", July 10-September 1, 1968; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The University of Pennsylvania, October 10-December 1, 1968, (7/10 - 12/1/1968)

Los Angeles, California, Frederick S. Wight Gallery, University of California, "African Art In Motion", January 20-March 17, 1974; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., April 21-July 30, 1974. (1/20 - 7/30/1974)

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "Selections from the Katherine White Collection", March 1, 1987 - August 1, 1987, (03/01/1987 - 08/01/1987)
Published ReferencesGrosz-Ngate, John H. Hanson, Patrick O'Meara, Africa: Fourth Edition, 2014, plate 8.12

The Cleveland Museum of Art, African Tribal Images: The Katherine White Reswick Collection, Cleveland, Ohio, 1968, no. 52

Dark, Philip J. C., An Introduction to Benin At and Techonology, Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1973. a, b

University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, African Art in Motion: Icon and Act, Robert Farris Thompson, 1974. p. 112-113 pl. 149

Lamp, Frederick. Cosmos, Cosmetics, and the Spirit of Bondo, in African Arts, Vol. 18, No. 3, May 1985, pp. 36, 98, illus. p. 36, no. 15

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

Selected Works, Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1991, p. 36

Blier, 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. 18

Hart, W.A., Quaderni Poro: Continuity and Discontinuity in the Art History of Sierra Leone, 1995, ill. no. 10 (reproduction)

Seattle Art Museum: Bridging Cultures, London: Scala Publishers Ltd. for the Seattle Art Museum, 2007, pp. 58-59, illus. p. 58

Mellon, James. The Great African Bangle Culture. Douglas: Fruitful Publications, 2018; p. 109, reproduced.

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

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