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Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory

Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory

Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory retraces the African and European sources of ivories which were the earliest objects from sub-Saharan Africa to reach European collections. Between 1490 and 1600 African artists working for European patrons carved exquisite ivory commissions for the royal households of Europe based on models of hunting scenes, coats of arms, decorative motifs, and chalice shapes. African artists, already skilled carvers of wood, stone, and ivory, interpreted these in their own style, and added their own motifs to produce a new, original art. The ivories’ exotic origins, together with their craftsmanship and precious material, made them worthy as prestige gifts. This is the earliest instance of cross-cultural interaction between Europeans and West Africans and produced works that document this historic event and express the first impressions Africans had of Europeans before the large scale slave trade, the industrial revolution, and colonial rule distorted relations between them. The objects reveal the sophistication of 15th- and 16th-century Africans and correct misconceptions that Africa was devoid of history and culture and was closed to the outside world until colonization. This book is a catalogue of all known Afro-Portuguese ivories.

Exhibition catalogue by Ezio Bassani and William B. Fagg, with introduction, Africa and the Renaissance by Susan Vogel and essay, European Perceptions of Black Africans in the Renaissance by Peter Mark. Chapters by the authors: 1. The Legacy of the Navigator; 2. The Afro-Portuguese Ivories; 3. An Art of Stillness and Beauty: The Sapi-Portuguese Ivories; 4. Sources for the Sapi-Portuguese Ivories; 5. Sapi Workshops and Artists; 6. Conclusions on the Sapi-Portuguese Ivories; 7. The Bini-Portuguese Ivories: Enter Movement; 8. The Bini-Portuguese Artists; 9. A Conjectural Digression Among the Bronze Casters; 10. A Problematic Yoruba-Portuguese Saltcellar; 11. The Afro-Portuguese Apocrypha; 12. Conclusions on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories. Published and distributed by The Center for African Art and Prestel-Verlag, September 1988. 256 pp. Cloth: ISBN 3-7913-0880-7, Paper: ISBN 0-945802-01-3. LCCN: 88-30423.