Description & Technical information

Superb spoon featuring a simple rod-like stem of fish-shaped finial.  The thread-like nature of its slender stem or handle, contrasts with the curved upper section of the paper-thin ridged bowl.

Not unlike other artworks made by the Yorùbá and Edó peoples, and besides being based on a series of visual and conceptual puns, the iconography of these spoons may convey some ancient stories, myths and oral lore passed down through the generations, probably as traditional proverbs.

This type of object may be among some of the earliest objects produced in Western Africa for the European market.

Date:  16th century
Origin:  Kingdom of Benin
Medium: Ivory
Dimensions: 26.5 cm (10³/₈ inches)
Provenance: S.P., Oporto and private collection, Lisbon

Ezio Bassani, ‘African Art and Artefacts in European Collections, 1400 – 1500’, London, British Museum Press, 2000, no. 814; ‘Exotica. The Portuguese Discoveries and the renaissance Kunstkammer’ (cat.), Lisbon, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, 2001, p. 101, no. 8; Dias, Pedro, ‘A Arte do Marfim — O Mundo onde os Portugueses Chegaram’, Oporto, V.O.C. Antiguidades Lda, 2004, p. 41, no. 6; Bassani & Fagg, ‘Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivor’, New York; Munich: The Centre for African Art; Prestel‑Verlag, 1988.