Studio: international art — 15.1899

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Primitive Art from Benin

PRIMITIVE ART FROM copper, by equally as good an artist as the former

tooth, these being the king s gods ; and later on
Among the large variety of curious he refers to " seven white scowered elephants'
objects discovered in Benin not the least teeth on pedestals of ivory, which is the manner
curious are the carved tusks which were that almost all the king's gods are placed within the
found supported on equally curious cast iron and' house." Most of the tusks found in situ were
brass human heads on the altars of the city. These covered with a thick coating of congealed human
tusks were, in fact, found by the members of the and animal blood; other tusks were found buried,
Punitive Expedition in the same position as seen some of them in a very perished condition.* The
by the Dutch traveller Nyendael, who recorded his tusks vary in length up to 6 metres and over, and
visit some two hundred years ago. After a con- are in themselves magnificent specimens of ivory,
temptuous reference to a carved pillar in the king's speaking eloquently of the pacific life elephants
house, he proceeds: " Behind a white carpet must have led in former times to have enabled
we are also shown eleven men's heads cast in them to live long enough to produce such splendid

tusks. The ornamenta-
tion to which the large
tusks have been subjected,
while preserving their form,
is of two grades: the
one severely plain and the
other extremely decorative
in its effect. The former
consists of a series of three
to five incised bands of
plait pattern, a design very
common in West Africa,
placed at intervals (Fig.
29), the bands diminishing
in width as they approach
the tip of the tusk. The
embellishment is conse-
quently plain but elegant,
and does not call for
further remark. The other
grade (Fig. 28) consists in

* "At the end of each com-
pound stands an altar decorated
with large bronzes and enor-
mous carved ivory tusks, the
whole being smeared and
crusted over with human blood;
these altars (seventeen in num-
ber), I afterwards learnt from
the chiefs who submitted to the
Government, were the shrines
of the defunct kings of Benin.
The antiquity of each could be
easily traced by the appearance
and condition of the carved
ivories which decorated them."
(Dr. Allman, the Lancet, July
2, 1897, p. 44). If only six
tusks were added in 200 years,
the length of a king's reign

staircase at grove hill cottage, harrow must have reached the good

(See "An Architect's Home") arnold mitchell, architect average of thirty-three years !

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