Gold Weight in the form of a Shield

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


Accession Number

2009.5198

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 Originally made from wax moulds, the goldweights were an essential component of business transactions and were used by both the royal treasury and common people.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.

Among the Asante there were two tpyes of shields, heraldic shields made of thick hide and ceremonial dance shields made of wicker or raffia. This goldweight is an example of the former, used frequently in war.

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