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Lidded Saltcellar. Sapi -Portuguese; 15 th – 16 th century. Background of Art. Produced by an African artist Purchased by a Portuguese visitor in the 15 th or 16 th cent. Represents engagement between indigenous Africans and European explorers during early period of contact.

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lidded saltcellar

Lidded Saltcellar

Sapi-Portuguese; 15th – 16th century

background of art
Background of Art
  • Produced by an African artist
  • Purchased by a Portuguese visitor in the 15th or 16th cent.
  • Represents engagement between indigenous Africans and European explorers during early period of contact.
  • The saltcellar was designed not for indigenous use, but specifically to appeal to foreign visitors.
  • Portuguese explorers bought the ivory carvings to present to wealthy patrons who financed their voyages.
  • The Sapi, ancestors to contemporary Temne, Kissi, and Bolum in Sierra Leone, were the ones who created this particular saltcellar.
background of art4
Background of Art
  • Portuguese often described the Sapi with admiration.
  • During the 15th cent., Portuguese visitors collected ivory objects produced by Sapi carvers.
  • Political conflict ended this trade, and Portuguese began acquiring ivory from the Benin Kingdom to the south.
description of art
Description of Art
  • A piece of ivory is delicately carved to form a lidded bowl supported by a conical base and topped with a finial.
  • Half the piece consists of the elaborate base on which the bowl is positioned.
  • Highly refined carving of finial on top gives the piece a sense of lightness.
  • The base is covered with abstract, decorative carvings in low relief as well as figures in medium and high relief.
  • The use of snakes and dogs in decorating saltcellars is very typical of the Sapi, causing one to believe they were important.
description of art6
Description of Art
  • The frozen facial expressions, stiff formality of the figures, and abstracted presentation of the dogs is common within stylistic ideals found throughout West Africa.
  • But the above characteristics were also common in Medieval European figurative sculpture as well, indicating dual influence.
  • Most of the motifs on the saltcellar are entirely abstract and decorative.
  • Interlocking ribbons near the bottom recall Celtic manuscripts; abstracted floral designs such as those on the lid of the bowl are reminiscent of Medieval stained glass.
context of art
Context of Art
  • This saltcellar provides evidence o the masterful carving of Sapi artists working with ivory.
  • Ivory was highly coveted, and it was associated with prestige and wealth in both Africa and Europe.
  • The form of this type of saltcellar is similar to European cups cast in metal.
  • There is a common misconception that African artists were anonymous. This is because the names were not recorded by Western collectors.
context of art8
Context of Art
  • Successful African artists were probably well-known amongst their contemporaries.
  • More elite art in Africa was produced on commission.
  • Artists were probably organized in workshops which focused on meeting demands of patrons.
  • It is likely that this patron-client structure was already present when the Portuguese arrived.
royal exhibition building

Royal Exhibition Building

Melbourne, Designed by Joseph Reed; 1880

background of art11
Background of Art
  • Completed in 1880
  • Designed by Joseph Reed and his architectural firm
  • Located in Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne is the capital city of the state of Victoria and is one of Australia’s largest cities.
  • Melbourne was a wealthy city of international commercial importance when the Royal Exhibition Building was constructed.
  • Originally constructed for the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880-81
background of art12
Background of Art
  • 1880 International Exhibition – October 1880-May 1881; about 1.5 million visitors
  • Was later the site of the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition (1888) and the first opening of the Parliament of Australia (1901).
  • Also used for Olympic competitions, car shows, school exams, and graduation ceremonies.
  • Still used as an exhibition site.
description of art13
Description of Art
  • The main section is still in existence; the side wings have been demolished.
  • Throughout many additions/changes, the central core of the building has remained the same.
  • Constructed with exterior walls made of brick and a roof made of timber, slate, and steel.
  • The building has a cruciform plan, take from church architecture; Reed combined both Gothic and Classical influences.
description of art14
Description of Art
  • Plan: a long central space (like a church’s nave) and shorter spaces set crosswise to the central area (like church transepts) flanked by aisles.
  • The central crossing of the building has a large dome mounted on an octagonal drum (inspired by the Florentine Cathedral).
  • Central entryway – like a Romanesque portal
  • Situated in Carleton Gardens (parts of which were designed by Reed)
description of art15
Description of Art
  • Interior – open; has many galleries for viewing the main areas of the exhibition space.
  • Continuous galleries overlook the space below with many windows.
  • Interior columns, floors, ceiling, dome made of timber.
  • Timber was much cheaper than masonry when the building was being built and allowed the building to be constructed faster.
  • Exterior walls made of masonry.
description of art16
Description of Art
  • The building and exhibition were intended to highlight European ideas about progress.
  • Size - monumental scale
  • During its time, was the largest building in Australia.
  • Allowed visitors a view of the city’s impressive skyline.