Carved Elephant Tusk
Date Late 19th-early 20th century
Artist:Kongo peoples, Congolese
Dimensions Overall: 44 in. (111.8 cm)
Medium Tusk | Ivory
Credit Line Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.
Description Large carved tusk, 14 bands, made by a Kongo artisan, from Zaire. Afro-Portuguese ivory.
Published ReferencesCécile Fromont, _The Art of Conversion: Christian Visual Culture in the Kingdom of Kongo_ (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2014) 250-251, figs. 85-87.
Provenance They were donated to this Museum in 1971 by Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. The tusks were acquired by Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., sometime between 1950 and 1960. Unfortunately, we do not know from whom Mr. Chrysler acquired these artifacts. Prior to their arrival here in 1971, they were in the museum Mr. Chrysler had in Provincetown, Mass., which opened in 1958 and closed in 1970 (Chrysler Art Museum of Provincetown).
Current Location Chrysler Museum of Art, Gallery 110
Object Label Kongo Peoples Democratic Republic of the Congo Carved Elephant Tusk, late-19th to early-20th century Ivory, 44 in. Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. 71.2409 Elaborately carved ivory tusks such as this were commissioned by Europeans from African artists beginning in the mid-1800s. The spiral pattern, formed by the body of a snake, identifies this work as being of the Kongo tradition of carving. Read from the bottom of the tusk to the top, Africans and Europeans are clearly distinguished by their dress and physical features, as well as by the items they carry. However, the combined meaning of these varied scenes remains unclear. The Congo River region of Central Africa was ruled by Belgium from 1885 to 1960, and the region had been in constant contact with Europeans since Portuguese explorers arrived in the 1400s. Consequently, Kongo artists frequently produced saleable sculptures, often with Christian themes, for Belgian colonists and missionaries, all the while continuing to create pieces sacred to their traditional beliefs.
Object Number 71.2409