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African Art
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Oliphant

late 15th to mid-17th century

Elephant ivory tusk and metal

3 1/2 × 20 3/4 in. (8.9 × 52.7 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
2006.51.192
Hunting horns have been used in Europe since medieval times. The term oliphant derives from the word elephant, denoting the material from which the horns were usually crafted. This horn carved with hunting scenes sometime in the late fifteenth to mid-seventeenth century was inspired by European woodcuts, and it originates from the coast of what was then Serra Leoa. Horns produced explicitly for the European market not only featured European imagery but also have the mouthpiece on the tip of the tusk, whereas those originally made for local use have the mouthpiece on the concave side of the horn. Export pieces also display figurative loops; a string was attached to the loops so that the horn could be worn across the chest or attached to a belt.
Geography: 
Guinea Coast, Sierra Leone
Status: 
On view
Culture: 
Sapi
Period: 
15th–17th century
Classification: 
Musical Instruments
Provenance: 

Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, June 21, 1979; Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn, 1979–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Bibliography: 

Kate Ezra, African Ivories, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984), 11, no. 3, fig. 6.

William B. Fagg and Ezio Bassani, African Art and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory (New York & Munich: Museum for African Art, 1988), 141, no. 89, fig. 181.

Sotheby’s, London, London, Primitive Works of Art: African, Oceanic, and American Indian Works of Art, sale cat. (June 21, 1979), 103, lot 146, ill.

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

Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 172–73, pl. 156.

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), 169, ill.

Ezio Bassani, African Art and Artefacts in European Collections 1400–1800 (London: British Museum, 2000), 251, fig. 773.

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.