Description The tusk is carved in high relief with a procession of figures in a rising spiral. It is thought to have been carved by the Vili people of Loango for the French traders who dominated the area. The scenes, which read from the bottom, show a war between two African peoples, in which the defeated are roped and led away; a sailor woodworking; coconuts being picked; a trader selling gin; prisoners being led off for sale as slaves; a European lighting his cigar; fishermen carrying large fish; a procession of dignitaries; the execution of criminals; goods and ivory being brought for sale; another procession of dignitaries, who salute a European in a wicker chair; the preparing of a pig and other food for a banquet; a procession; the arrest of a wrong-doer; a procession; and an execution. The top is carved with a gorilla eating a banana and scratching his side. The costumes suggest a mid-century date, and the Africans in the procession are shown in printed European cotton textiles. There are many distinctions in rank among the Africans, as indicated by their costume, hats, and jewelry, and by specific symbols, for example an umbrella. Other similar tusks are known, the earliest of which was purchased between 1839 and 1867 by the French admiral Fleuriot de Langle.
- Through African Eyes: The European in African Art, 1500-Present. The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. 2010-2011.
Provenance Tiffany & Company, New York [date and mode of acquisition unknown], Henry Walters, Baltimore, ca. 1910, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, ca. 1910
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