Gold Weight in the form of an Antelope with a Bird on its Head and One on its Tail

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


Accession Number

2009.5208

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 Originally made from wax moulds, the goldweights were an essential component of business transactions and were used by both the royal treasury and common people.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

Antelopes are viewed by the Asante to be both smart and clever. The antelope with a one bird pirched on its head and one on its tail may refer to proverbs associated with patience.

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