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Snake Pendant

Arts of Africa

In societies without hereditary chiefs, such as the Akan-speaking peoples of southern Côte d’Ivoire, political and economic elevation remained open to people with the initiative and skill to advance. Once established as a community leader, an individual commissioned his or her own personal regalia, such as this pendant. To reinforce the point, a person of prominence eventually arranged an “exhibition of gold” to display the depth of his or her personal wealth and to entertain (and feed) the community. The Ebrié say on such occasions that “he [or she] has added something to the family chest.”

Museum records suggest that this snake pendant may have once been found in the personal collection of Abrogoua, a “king” (or, at least, a powerful chief) of the Ebrié who died in 1811. From there, it entered the Paris collection of Charles Ratton, a pioneering early dealer in both African and medieval art, who arranged to have the pendant shown in an ethnographic context at the Trocadéro museum, in Paris. In 1938 Ratton sold the work to Frederick Pleasants, a leader in the developing aesthetic approach to African art in New York, who would later serve as curator of the African collection at Brooklyn. In 1944 the pendant found its way into the collection of Alastair B. Martin, an important mid-twentieth-century collector in New York, who finally offered it to Brooklyn.

CULTURES Ebrié or Baule
DATES 19th century
DIMENSIONS diameter: 3 9/16 in. (9 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE Frank L. Babbott Fund
PROVENANCE Prior to 1938, provenance not yet documented; before 1811, reportedly acquired by Abrogoua of the Ébrié region (now Côte d'Ivoire); by 1938, acquired by Charles Ratton of Paris, France; 1938, purchased from Charles Ratton by Frederick Pleasants of New York, NY; 1949, purchased from Frederick Pleasants by Alastair Bradley Martin of Katonah, NY; 1954, purchased from Alastair Bradley Martin by J. J. Klejman Gallery, New York; October 13, 1954, purchased from J. J. Klejman Gallery by the Brooklyn Museum.
Provenance FAQ
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION A coiled snake with head facing downward, holding a toad in its mouth. It was cast cire perdue and constructed of fine adjacent threads. There are 3 hooks for suspension. Condition: good, except for crude repair to metal next to supporting loops.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Ebrié. Snake Pendant, 19th century. Gold, diameter: 3 9/16 in. (9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Frank L. Babbott Fund, 54.161. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 54.161_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 54.161_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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