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Cup Ivory, about 1490–1530 Loaned by the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Gift of Gustave Schindler, 1956, inv. 1956.5
The Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College is closing for a year for renovation and generously agreed to lend one of its most beautiful and important works of African art to TMA. This covered cup, sometimes called a saltcellar, was carved from a single tusk of ivory during the first generation of contact between Europeans and peoples living on the West Coast of Africa. Impressed with the skills of African ivory carvers, European traders commissioned fancy cups, spoons, and horns that show a unique blend of African and European shapes and symbols. Only about 200 survive, most of them in royal or church treasuries. The finial sculpture represents a kneeling woman holding a baby; the figure was recarved by a 20th-century restorer but originally represented the Madonna and Child. Around the base are four men alternating with four pairs of dogs snarling at snakes.
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