Sapi-Portuguese Ivories

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Term used by European art historians to describe a group of ivory objects made by African artists in Sierra Leone for Portuguese patrons around the end of the 15th and the first quarter of the 16th century. They include hunting horns, saltcellars, pyxes, forks and spoons. As works of art and objects of prestige they were from an early date exchanged as gifts between the royal and princely courts of Europe. They display a mixture of African and European elements and motifs in their overall form and ornamentation. 'Sapi' was the name used by the 16th century Portuguese to refer generally to a number ethno-linguistic groups in Sierra Leone with whom they were in contact, such as the Bullom and Temne. [The broader term 'Afro-Portuguese' includes both the Sapi-Portuguese works from Sierra Leone and the Bini-Portuguese works from Benin in Nigeria.]

  • E.Bassani & W.B.Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance (New York 1988) [Bassani has continued to update the catalogue raisonne provided at the end of this book in subsequent articles and exhibition catalogues.]