Gold Weight in the form of a Bird

African, Ghana, Asante peoples
early to mid-20th century


Accession Number

2009.5213

Medium or Technique

Bronze, (copper alloy)

Not On View

Collections

Africa and Oceania

Classifications

Sculpture

Asante goldweights were used to counterbalance scales for the purpose of weighing gold. Originally made from wax moulds, the goldweights were an essential component of business transactions and were used by both the royal treasury and common people. Among the goldweights, there is a dynamic range of motifs that include abstract geometric patterns derived from Islamic sources, representational figures that relate to Asante proverbs, European military equipment, and royal regalia. Goldweights were highly valued by their owners and were treated with great care. Similarly, the smiths that made the goldweights were employed by local chiefs and enjoyed special status within the community. By the 1920’s most of the goldweights being produced were made for European collectors, who particularly liked the inventiveness of form and the miniature size of the highly detailed goldweights.

Birds are a popular subject for goldweights, due to their links with oral tradition and proverbs. Their scale of composition demonstrates the skill of the artist, in that there is great detail balanced with restraint.

Provenance

Early 1990s, sold by Christie's, London to George Abrams, Waban, MA; 2009, gift of Abrams to the MFA. (Accession date: January 20, 2010)

Credit Line

Gift of George Abrams in memory of Maida Abrams