Tusk Carved in Relief

possibly 18th century

African Art

This rare carved tusk might have been used in the context of the court of the Awujale, king of the Ijebu, or by Òsugbó association of elders. The style of carving here is clearly Ijebu and closely relates to similar stylized figured on wood carving and in brass work, while its imagery includes motifs associated with the Òsugbó. A central theme found three times on the convex ridge of the tusk is the fish-legged figure. In Ijebu, it represents Olokun, god of the sea. The inclusion of the fish-legged figure in the arts of leadership points to a relationship with Benin, where it also is a key royal symbol.


Elephant ivory


52 × 16 × 4 in. (132.08 × 40.64 × 10.16 cm)

Credit Line

Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection

Accession Number



18th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Sotheby's London Catalogue of Primitive Art Auction, July 15, 1975. Morris J. Pinto, Paris, to May 9, 1977;Sotheby's London, May 9, 1977, lot 84; Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn, 1977–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

  • Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 146, ill
  • Frederick John Lamp, "Hot Space, Cool Space: The Reinstallation of the African Art Collection in the Louis Kahn Building at Yale University," African Arts 40 (Summer 2007), 46–47, fig. 18
  • "Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006), 222, 226, ill
  • Kate Ezra, African Ivories, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984), no. 27
  • Sotheby's, London, African, Oceanic, and Pre-Columbian Art from the Pinto Collection, sale cat. (May 9, 1977), 46–47, lot 84
  • Sotheby's and Sotheby's, London, New York and London, Catalogue of Primitive Art, sale cat. (July 15, 1975), 94, lot 254, ill
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