H x W x D: 207 x 88 x 15.9 cm (81 1/2 x 34 5/8 x 6 1/4 in.)
Ise, Ekiti region, Nigeria
Olowe of Ise is considered by many art historians and art collectors to be the most important Yoruba artist of the 20th century. Active in the first quarter of the century, he designed and carved architectural sculptures for several palaces in the Ekiti region of Yorubaland. His work first became known in Europe when an elaborately carved and painted door and lintel ensemble he had created for the palace of the Ogoga (king) of Ikere was displayed at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition in London. Considered by experts in the British Museum to be "the finest piece of West African carving that has ever reached England," the door and its lintel were acquired for that museum's collection in exchange for a British-made throne.
Olowe's innovative approach to carving the palace doors stands apart from Yoruba low relief work, which typically is flat and even. Olowe, however, carved in exceedingly high and uneven relief. The figures on this panel, the right side of a door, project in profile from the background by as much as 10 centimeters (approximately 4 inches), and the upper bodies of some figures are carved completely in the round. Instead of using static, frontal poses, Olowe turned the heads of the figures in opposition to their bodies to face the viewer. He crossed their legs to suggest walking or dancing motions.
The panel shown here commemorates an actual event. At the end of the 19th century the Arinjale (king) of Ise received the first British traveling commissioners for the Ondo Province. The left side of the door (in a private collection) depicts Major W. R. Reeve-Tucker, the first traveling commissioner, and Captain W. G. Ambrose, his successor, and their entourage of African porters, soldiers, prisoners and British missionaries.
This right panel depicts the Yoruba king and his entourage. The Arinjale, who is mounted on a horse and wears a conical crown surmounted by a bird, is seen in the second register. He is accompanied by a court messenger and a musician. Royal wives and children, guards, priests and others from the palace appear in successive registers. The decapitated female figure in the lowest register is a human sacrifice, an act committed on the rarest occasions to ensure the survival of the community. Originally three vultures pecked at the female's eyes, abdomen and feet; now only the feet of the birds remain. The faces carved on two columns along the length of the door may represent war captives or royal ancestors.
Olowe carved the palace door from iroko, an iron-hard wood highly valued in his time and still used in modern building construction and furniture making. No photograph of Olowe has been located, but his oriki, or chanted attributes, claims that he was handsome and so strong that he could carve iroko wood "as though it were as soft as a calabash."
Wood palace door carved in very high relief, with six registers, top to bottom: 1) two women with infants on their backs, female attendant; 2) male figure on horseback (king called "Arinjale") followed by two male figures, the second playing a whistle; 3) four dancing girls holding their breasts; 4) four males carrying powderkegs on their heads (one broken off); 5) four male soldiers each holding a gun (one broken off); 6) female figure lying prone, head severed and legs spread apart, remains of three pairs of feet of birds (vultures). Along the proper right side of the door are 13 paired male heads, many with beards.
Dr. and Mrs. Robert H. Kuhn, Los Angeles, ca. 1972 to 1988
General exhibition, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., (deinstalled May 25, 2016)
Treasures, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 17, 2004-August 15, 2005
Olowe of Ise: A Yoruba Sculptor to Kings, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., March 15-September 7, 1998
Eisenhofer, Stefan. 2010. African Art. Cologne: Taschen, pp. 44-45 (note wrong date, not 1925).
National Museum of African Art. 1999. Selected Works from the Collection of the National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, pp. 66-67, no. 41.
Ogbechie, Sylvester Okwunodu. 2012. Making History: African Collectors and the Canon of African Art. Milan: 5 Continents Editions, pp. 135, 137, no. 105.
Patton, Sharon F. 2004. Treasures: Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution. Folio.
Walker, Roslyn Adele. 1998. Olowe of Ise: A Yoruba Sculptor to Kings. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, pp. 42-45, no. 4.
Walker, Roslyn Adele. 1998. Olowe of Ise: A Yoruba Sculptor to Kings. Exhibition brochure. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, no. 6.
Title and summary note are provided by Shabnam Rahimi-Golkhandan, FSg curatorial research specialist.
Antoin Sevruguin is one of the early pioneers of commercial photography in Iran. He arrived in Iran from Tbilisi, Georgia in the mid 1870s to set up shop in Ala al-Dawla street in Tehran. From the early days, Sevruguin's studio was trusted both by the Qajar court and by foreign visitors to Iran. Highly regarded for their artistic ingenuity outside Iran, Sevruguin's photographs of 'ethnic types,' architecture and landscape, and depictions of daily life of Tehran found their way into foreign travelogues, magazines and books. As such, he stands alone in a relatively large group of early Iranian photographers for being recognized and celebrated outside the boundaries of the country. Antoin Sevruguin passed away in 1933, leaving behind only a fraction of his large collection of glass negatives, which is currently in the Archives of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
- Handwritten number (inked, probably by Antoin Sevruguin) reads, "1029."
- Handwritten information on slip of paper (from a 1943-1944 cash book, produced by the Bathni Brothers, Tehran) reads, "Nasr ed Din + Court." [Myron Bement Smith Collection, Subseries 2.1: Islamic Archives History, Collection Information]
- Myron Bement Smith handwritten caption in English reads, "47.P; Box 16.8: Nasr ud Din and court." [Myron Bement Smith Collection, Subseries 2.1: Islamic Archives History, Collection Information; Box 60; Folder 44: 47 P: Antoine Sevruguin, glass negatives, Iran]
Myron Bement Smith Collection: Antoin Sevruguin Photographs. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. Gift of Katherine Dennis Smith, 1973-1985
[Photograph marked "Regal" in a scrapbook : black and white photoprint]
Flores Yo-yo Corporation
Duncan Yo-Yo Company
Silver gelatin on paper
1 item, 1.5" x 1"
Filipino Americans 1920-1940
In Box 27, Folder 1.
"Regal" may be Pedro Flores, a Filipino American largely responsible for the popularity of the yo-yo in the United States beginning in the 1920s; founded Flores Yo-yo Company; photographer unidentified.
Duncan Family Yo-yo Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
This medallion, first made in 1787, became a popular icon in the British movement for the abolition of the slave trade in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Staffordshire pottery manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood probably engaged sculptor Henry Webber to create the design of a kneeling slave, his hands in chains, a figure based on the cameo gemstones of antiquity. The modeler, William Hackwood, then prepared the medallion for production in Wedgwood’s black jasper against a white ground of the same ceramic paste. Above the figure the words “AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER” appeal to the reason and sentiment of late-eighteenth-century men and women, disturbed by accounts of atrocities committed on the trans-Atlantic slave trade routes, and informed by abolitionist literature distributed in coffee-houses, taverns, public assembly rooms, reading societies, and private homes. The medallion expressed in material form the growing horror at the barbarous practices of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the premises upon which that trade thrived. Wedgwood produced the medallion for the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave trade, founded in 1787 by Thomas Clarkson, who in 1786 published his Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species. Wedgwood was a member of the Committee – later known as the Society for the Abolition of the Slave trade - and it is likely that distribution of the medallions took place through the organization, and that Wedgwood bore the costs himself.
In America, Quaker groups were active in their opposition to the slave trade in the late seventeenth century. When British opposition emerged in the 18th century from among the non-conformist congregations - Quakers, Methodists, Baptists, and Unitarians – communication between the North American and British groups was quickly established. In 1788, Josiah Wedgwood sent a packet of his medallions to Benjamin Franklin, then president of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery, with the words “It gives me great pleasure to be embarked on this occasion in the same great and good cause with you, and I ardently hope for the final completion of our wishes.” Franklin wrote to Wedgwood: "I am persuaded [the medallion] may have an Effect equal to that of the best written Pamphlet in procuring favour to those oppressed people." Neither Franklin, nor Wedgwood, lived to see those wishes fulfilled.
The medallion became the emblem for the British movement carried forward by Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce, leading to Parliament’s abolition of the slave trade in 1807. Men and women appropriated the cameo for personal ornament on snuff-box lids, shoe buckles, hair pins, pendants, and bracelets. By 1807, and before the abolition of slavery in all the British colonies in 1838, many versions of the kneeling slave found their way onto the surface of artifacts made in ceramic, metal, glass and fabric. The representation of the slave in the Wedgwood medallion carries several conflicting meanings. Here we see a man on his knees, pleading to his white masters, and perhaps to God at a time when many slaves took the Christian faith. The rhetorical question, “AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER”, calls for pity, but at the same time demands a review of the black African’s place in the world as fellow human being, rather than a separate species, a status conferred upon them by slave owners and traders. The image of the kneeling slave is noble, but at the same time without threat; he kneels, and he is in chains. He may represent the literary figure of the “noble savage,” and at the same time draw forth in late 18th-century white men and women their sense of magnanimity. Materially, the medallion underscores the message with the figure rendered in black on a white, or in some versions a pale straw-colored background.
Against fierce opposition, and for all their contradictions, hypocrisies, and ill-informed sentiments, the British campaigners for the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and for the abolition of slavery, were astonishingly successful in achieving their aims. Strategies like widespread petitioning, the distribution of leaflets, pamphlets, and printed images, and the production of artifacts like this medallion, established the tactics for subsequent political and social pressure groups on local, national, and now on a global scale. The printed T-shirt, badges, and mugs distributed or sold today are the descendents of the Wedgwood medallion.
Guyatt, M. “The Wedgwood Slave Medallion,” Journal of Design History, 13, no. 2 (2000): 93-105
Margolin, S. “And Freedom to the Slave”: Antislavery ceramics, 1787-1865, Ceramics in America, edited by Robert Hunter (Hanover and London: Chipstone Foundation, 2002), pp. 80-109
Myers, S. ‘Wedgwood’s Slave Medallion and its Anti-Slavery Legacy’
Walvin, J. “British Abolitionism, 1787-1838,” Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity, edited by Anthony Tibbles (London: HMSO and National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, 1994), pp. 87-95
Clothing & Accessories
Government, Politics, and Reform
National Treasures exhibit
Kendrick, Kathleen M. and Peter C. Liebhold. Smithsonian Treasures of American History
Ales Hrdlicka photograph collection relating to the Panama-California Exposition, 1912-1917
Hrdlička, Aleš 1869-1943
United States National Museum
Royal College of Surgeons in London
American Museum of Natural History
Panama-California Exposition (1915-1916 : San Diego, Calif.)
circa 595 negatives : glass and nitrate
Teton Indians depicted
Hopi Indians depicted
Jicarilla Indians depicted
Navajo Indians depicted
Osage Indians depicted
Pueblo Indians depicted
Omaha Indians depicted
Indians of North America Great Plains
Indians of North America Southwest, New
Ales Hrdlicka (1869-1943) was born in Czechoslovakia and came to the United States at the age of thirteen. Originally trained in medicine, he developed an interest in physical anthropology while working with the New York State hospitals and researching with the Department of Anthropology in the Pathological Institute of the New York State hospitals. Hrdlicka joined the Hyde Expeditions to the American Southwest and made his own expeditions to study physical characteristics of Southwest tribes. In 1903, he was appointed head of the United States National Museum's newly formed Division of Physical Anthropology.
In 1912, Hrdlicka planned and directed seven expeditions, gathering information that helped him prepare physical anthropology exhibits for the Panama-California Exposition at San Diego, California (1915). For use in the exposition, he hired sculptor Frank Micka to make busts of people from around the world. While in the field making casts, Micka also took front and profile photographs of subjects. Hrdlicka made his own trip to photograph the people in Urga, Mongolia, making 360 images of Mongolians and some Tibetans for use in the exposition.
The bulk of the collection consists of photographs commissioned by Ales Hrdlicka for the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego, collected 1912-1914. They include front and profile portraits of Mongols in Urga, Mongolia, as well as Apache, Teton, Hopi, Navajo, Omaha, Osage, and Pueblo Indians. There are some full-length portraits of Apaches and views of Southwest Indian dwellings, activities, and a dance. Additionally, there are some images of United States National Museum exhibits and items from the USNM, American Museum of Natural History, and the Royal College of Surgeons in London, some of which were made by Hrdlicka in 1917.
Photo lot 73-26B, Ales Hrdlicka photograph collection relating to the Panama-California Exposition, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
1 photographic print : hand coloring ; image 19.4 x 24.3 cm., on mount 20.7 x 25.7 cm
ca 1880 - 1890
Ca. 1880 - 1890
Title taken from print.
The photographer's original identification number, 224, and original title, Jinriki, are printed in the bottom right corner.
Two young women, one with an umbrella, are seated in a jinriki-sha (rickshaw) pulled by a jinriki (rickshaw driver). An assistant brings up the rear of the jinriki-sha. Outdoor setting in leafy area.
Henry and Nancy Rosin Collection of Early Photography of Japan. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Partial purchase and gift of Henry and Nancy Rosin, 1999-2001