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Entwistle at the quai Branly

by Entwistle on 8 January 2017

The Musée du quai Branly in Paris will showcase our superb 15th to 16th century bronze bracelet from the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria in its upcoming exhibition L'Afrique des Routes from 31st January to 12th November, 2017.

The exhibition will examine Africa as the craddle of humanity and as supplier of labour, power, gold and raw materials for millenia and will portray a panorama of the continent at the crossroads of many artistic worlds.

This remarkable and refined bronze bracelet from the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria is a great example of the bronze casting skills of West African artists in the late 15th and 16th centuries [1]; its openwork form is a rich tableau of zoomorphic dynamics as various animal forms intertwine in high relief on its surface.

The cylindrical form of the bracelet's surface is encircled by a motif incorporating what would appear to be leopards set into a background of two interwoven sets of parallel lines and three sets of triple spikes (some missing), which encircle the top and bottom. In dramatic fashion, the feline forms are seen biting down on the various mudfish that sit on the surface to face them directly.


The mudfish are rendered in a way that could refer to either Ijebu or Owo, but ceremonial armlets such as these from Owo are in most cases carved in ivory. The openwork conceit appears where the animals and fish twist to face one another: with various limbs intertwinning and contorting, they resist or dominate their opponent in a sort of symbolic battle for supremacy between the renowned symbols of the ruling class among many West African societies.

At the sides of the bracelet are double sets of curving bands that twist and overlap to create an elegant border; at the very edges of the bracelet refined and slightly raised rope forms can be observed.  Testment to its antiquity, true patinae of greenish-brown colour is observed on the surface of the bracelet along with some areas of encrustation.

Christian Elwes, London, January 2017

[1] According to a letter from Dr. Justine M. Cordell written in August 1976, this bracelet was probably cast in the 15th or 16th centuries, quoted in Sotheby’s New York, Important Tribal Art, 8 May, 1996, Lot 95
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