Skip to main content

What Was This Hunting Horn Made For?

Bryna Freyer

Bryna Freyer, Curator of Collections at the National Museum of African Art, tells us about a late 15th century hunting horn that can be attributed to Sierra Leone; its features suggest that it was made by a Bullom or Temne artist. It was commissioned as a gift to the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella.

 
 
Collection Object: 
Hunting horn
Topic
Hunting/Fishing
Marriage
Leadership
Status
dog
foreigner
weapon
Writing
tree
cross
Trade
Data Source
National Museum of African Art
Maker
Temne artist
Sapi-Portuguese style
Bullom artist
Credit Line
Gift of Walt Disney World Co., a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company
Medium
Ivory, metal
Dimensions
H x W x D: 64.2 x 16.4 x 9 cm (25 1/4 x 6 7/16 x 3 9/16 in.)
See more items in
National Museum of African Art Collection
Exhibition
African Mosaic: Selections from the Permanent Collection
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts
On View
NMAfA, First Level North Galleries (1130-1134)
NMAfA, Second Level Gallery (2193)
Geography
Sierra Leone
Date
Late 15th century
Label Text
While the source of the materials and the superb artistry of this hunting horn can be attributed to Sierra Leone, certain of its features suggest that it was made by a Bullom or Temne artist for a European client. The positioning of its mouthpiece, its suspension lugs, as well as the scenes of a European hunt carved in relief and most likely based upon European prints all indicate the horn was produced for export. This horn is one of only three surviving horns attributed to the same hand. The heraldic shields and inscriptions carved near its base by this unidentified master artist help narrow the dating of its creation to between 1494 and 1500 and identify it as a royal gift from Crown Prince Manuel I of Portugal to King Ferdinand V of Castile and Aragon.
West African ivories were coveted luxuries in Europe in the late 15th and 16th centuries and considered worthy as royal gifts. Increased international demand for ivory in subsequent centuries has endangered elephant populations however, giving rise to current international bans on its export and use.
Description
Ivory end blown horn with segmented horizontal carvings in tiers from the top to the bottom. The figures are of animals and humans. There are also plant forms (trees) and letters (Greek). Each band is carved with high and low relief objects and separated by lattice, beading or braiding. There are five carved S-shaped ivory loops on the side. Three have metal chains attached.
Provenance
Private collection, France
Paul and Ruth Tishman, New York, before 1981 to 1984
Walt Disney World Co.
Exhibition History
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 4, 2017-ongoing
African Mosaic: Selections from the Permanent Collection, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 19, 2013-ongoing (installed May 14, 2014-June 8, 2017)
The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection Highlights, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., May 21, 2009-June 4, 2014 (deinstalled May 14, 2014)
African Vision: The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., February 15, 2007-March 31, 2009
Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th & 17th Centuries, National Museum of African Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., June 23-September 16, 2007; Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles
First Look: The Walt Disney-Tishman Collection of African Art, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., May 17-December 3, 2006
Art of the Personal Object, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 24, 1991-April 9, 2007
For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1981
Published References
Kreamer, Christine Mullen. 2006. "African Vision: The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection." Tribal Arts 43, p. 86, nos. 11-12.
Kreamer, Christine Mullen, Bryna Freyer and Andrea Nicolls. 2007. African Vision: The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, pp. 54, 68-69, fig. 13, no. 15.
Levenson, Jay A. (ed). 2007. Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th & 17th Centuries. Washington, D.C.: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, p. 152, no. A-5.
National Museum of African Art. 2007. 2007-2008 School Calendar: Featuring the new Let's Read about Africa and the Sounds of African Music programs. Museum calendar. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, January 2008.
Patton, Sharon F. 2005. "Disney-Tishman: Gift to the Smithsonian Institution." Tribal Art X:2 (39), p. 63, no. 5.
Patton, Sharon F. and Bryna Freyer. 2008. Treasures 2008. Washington D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, pp. 4-5.
Robbins, Warren M. and Nancy Ingram Nooter. 1989. African Art in American Collections. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, p. 154, no. 282.
Ross, Doran (ed). 1992. Elephant: The Animal and Its Ivory in African Culture. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History, University of California, p. 293, no. D.
Skoda, Hannah, Patrick Lantschner and R. L. J. Shaw (eds). 2012. Contact and Exchange in Later Medieval Europe: Essays in Honour of Malcolm Vale. Rochester: Boydell & Brewer.
Visoná, Monica Blackmun, Robin Poyner, Herbert M. Cole and Michael D. Harris. 2001. A History of Art in Africa. New York: Harry N. Abrams, p. 172, no. 6-6.
Visoná, Monica Blackmun, Robin Poyner and Herbert M. Cole. 2008. A History of Art in Africa. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, p. 172, no. 6-6.
Vogel, Susan (ed). 1981. For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 64-67, no. 30.
Type
Musical Instrument
Object number
2005-6-9