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
- Goldweight Depicting a Double Crocodile
- Copper alloy
- 1.3 x 4.5 x 3.2 cm (1/2 x 1 3/4 x 1 1/4 in.)
- Gift of Muriel Kallis Newman