Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Geometric Weight, 18th–19th century
    Ghana; Akan peoples
    Brass; L. 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm)
    Gift of Ernst Anspach, 1994 (1994.312.3)

    Geometric Weight, 18th–19th century
    Ghana; Akan peoples
    Brass; L. 1 1/4 in. (3.2 cm)
    Gift of Ernst Anspach, 1994 (1994.312.4)

    In the fifteenth century, cast Akan gold weights (brass figurines used to measure units of gold dust) were developed in response to the extensive trade in gold mined in Kumasi that was initially transported across Saharan trade routes. Locally, gold was prized for its decorative qualities, status, and because of a strong belief in its inherent power and mystery. The earliest treatment of gold weights was probably in the style seen in these examples—graphic, abstract—as a result of the Islamic influence in the gold trade at this time. Both of these heavy rectangular forms have very faint surface designs that were engraved or punched into the metal. Their edges are rounded, indicating extensive human wear. The motif on the second weight, with two comblike forms on either side of a spiral, has been called "ram's horn," or Dwanimen, referring to the spiral shape of a ram's horn.

    While these miniature artifacts, created as weights, were commonly melted down and recast, historic motifs were valued and constantly reintroduced. Although these two examples were probably made in the eighteenth or even nineteenth century, their designs are of great longevity.

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  • Geometric Weight, 18th–19th century
    Ghana; Akan peoples
    Brass; L. 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm)
    Gift of Ernst Anspach, 1994 (1994.312.3)

    Geometric Weight, 18th–19th century
    Ghana; Akan peoples
    Brass; L. 1 1/4 in. (3.2 cm)
    Gift of Ernst Anspach, 1994 (1994.312.4)

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