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Lidded Saltcellar

Lidded Saltcellar

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Lidded Saltcellar

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  1. Lidded Saltcellar Sapi-Portuguese; 15th – 16th century

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Royal Exhibition Building Melbourne, Designed by Joseph Reed; 1880

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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)

  13. 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.

  14. 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.