Goldweight Depicting a Double Crocodile

A work made of copper alloy.

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  • A work made of copper alloy.

Date:

19th/mid–20th century

Artist:

Asante or related Akan-speaking peoples
Ghana
Coastal West Africa

About this artwork

Weights for measuring gold dust were made and used throughout Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire for more than five centuries, from about 1400 to 1900. These weights are either figurative or abstract and are usually divided into an early period (c. 1400–1700) and a late period (c. 1700–1900). During the late period, an increased variety and number of figurative weights emerged, although abstract weights continued to be made. Although used in economic transactions, the individual pieces could also function symbolically as indicators of wealth when placed on display.
Many types of animals, birds, and reptiles are represented in Akan proverb gold weights. This gold weight takes the form of a double crocodile; the bodies are combined into a central square element with rough hatch marks suggestive of crocodile skin. The noses of the crocodiles point upward, their legs and arms splay outward, and their tails curve toward the heads. In its complexity and interaction of formal elements, the composition borders on the baroque. Various gold weights continued to be used until around 1900, at which point gold mining was brought under European control and colonial coinage replaced the gold-dust currency. However, gold weights continued to be cast as collectibles for the domestic and tourist markets, as may have been the case with this piece.
—Permanent Collection Object Description

Currently Off View

Arts of Africa

Artist

Asante

Title

Goldweight Depicting a Double Crocodile

Origin

Ghana

Date

1800–1950

Medium

Copper alloy

Dimensions

1.3 x 4.5 x 3.2 cm (1/2 x 1 3/4 x 1 1/4 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Muriel Kallis Newman

Reference Number

2007.587

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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