African Art
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Composite roll-out of middle section of tusk
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Composite roll-out of middle section of tusk
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Composite roll-out of middle section of tusk
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Composite roll-out of top section of tusk
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Tusk Carved in Relief

possibly 18th century

Elephant ivory

52 x 16 x 4 in. (132.08 x 40.64 x 10.16 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
2006.51.143
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. Only one other, fragmentary example is known; it was collected by a British commander during the capture of Benin in 1897. 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.
Culture: 
Ijebu Yoruba
Period: 
18th century
Classification: 
Sculpture
Geography: 
Made in Owo (?), Guinea Coast, Nigeria
Status: 
On view
Provenance: 

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.

Bibliography: 

Sotheby’s, London, African, Oceanic, and Pre-Columbian Art from the Pinto Collection, sale cat. (May 9, 1977), 46–47, lot 84.

Kate Ezra, African Ivories, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984), no. 27.

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222, 226, 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.

Frederick John Lamp, 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.

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 such records is ongoing.