Sapi-Portuguese Saltcellar Lid

This is a 16th century ivory saltcellar or box. It is very ornate, with a series of seated figures and crocodiles in high relief surrounding the base. The lid is topped by a Janus head, or a head with two faces. The British Museum records refer to this as Afro-Portuguese, a term used to indicate items from Sierra Leone and Nigeria, made for a Portuguese market in the 15th and 16th centuries. Such items display a mixture of African and European elements and motifs in their overall form and ornamentation, and were considered prestige items across Europe. In this example, the head on the lid looks particularly European. A more specific term for items patronised in Sierra Leone, is Sapi-Portuguese.

Further Information

  • Type: Ivories
  • Object: Sapi-Portuguese Saltcellar Lid
  • Materials: Bone, ivory, tooth
  • Culture Group: Bullom, Temne
  • Dimensions: Unknown
  • Production Date: 1490-1530
  • Associated Places: Unknown
  • Associated People: Augustus Wollaston Franks; Wilson
  • Museum: British Museum
  • Accession Number: BM:Af.5117.b

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