Goldweight in the shape of a man, wearing a loin cloth and wielding a hoe against a large, oval object, sitting on a flat, square base.
The Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire have long used weights to weigh the gold dust exchanged in mercantile transactions. Figurative weights such as this one begin to appear in the 18th century, and some of these representations might be associated with one or more of the many proverbs that play a crucial role in many Akan societies. This does not mean that the interpretation of the meaning attached to a particular gold weight is always straightforward. For example, this example of a man wielding a hoe might refer to the proverb, "In order to survive one must work"-- a reference to the importance of hard work. But in another context, an individual might use the same material form of the hoe to convey a very different message: the feeling that the branching tree of one's family has been severed from its roots because one's mother has died. In order to understand the socio-cultural context for this message, it helps to know that most Akan-speaking peoples are matrilineal, and also that the hoe here is often associated with cemeteries and death. Yet even with this background information, the interpretation remains open-ended, because there is no direct correspondence between the figure and its message.
This painting (and the one adjacent) comes from an album of four landscape paintings.
The album leaf consists of two paintings, each on one side. The left side of the album leaf depicts a thatch hut in a forest under the moonlight, and the other painting depicts similar themes as in three other album leaves: rocks and and mountains at a more distant level, and trees, a straw pavilion in the front. The painting in the left side creates a more intimate scene and the moon provides a sense of time.
A scene of geese in pond and on sandbars. The geese are congregated in the lower left hand side of the painting, as are most of the reeds growing from the sand bars. Some geese can also be seen flying in the middle of the painting, though they are not as prominent. Five lines of calligraphy are lcoated in the upper right of the painting.
The colophon is a poem by Wang Baigu. The scene is a description of the poem, which visualized the poem and at the same time makes the painting poetic. The poem describes a group of geese lingering in the reeds. Geese were a common metaphor for homesickness in Chinese art and literature. Chang must have been familiar with the feeling of homesickness, which suffuses this twilight scene of water, sandbars, and birds.
This six-fold screen, a half of a pair, is meant to represent six of the twelve months of the year, with keen attention paid to the birds and flowers associated with each. Although this screen bears Kano Tan’yu’s signature, it was probably created by his studio or by followers working in this famous artist’s style.
Depictions of the seasons have a prominent place in the tradition of the Kano School (the official school of painting of the Tokugawa shogunate) and Japanese art. But painters were not alone in their masterful use of seasonal references—poetry also drew heavily on such motifs and exchange often took place between these genres, with poems inspiring painted scenes and paintings finding representation in poetic verse. The following late Heian (794–1185) and early Kamakura (1185–1333) period poems would have been part of the artistic dialogue that informs the motifs on these screens:
Spring is the cherry blossom
Summer is the cuckoo
Autumn is the moon
And in winter,
the shimmering snow is fresh to the eye.
Eihei Do-gen (1200–1253)
In the evening, the biting autumn wind blows through the field
Goldweight in the shape of a triangle, bearing undecorated lines along the edges of its shape and across the middle, with a small protrusion in the middle of the triangle's base.
Akan-speaking informants from Ghana explained to the German anthropologist Brigitte Menzel that triangular goldweights such as this one represent either pendants for necklaces or amulets worn by Asante Muslims. Interestingly, other sources indicate that goldweights themselves were sometimes used as amulets, guarding their wearer against harm or ensuring good health and good fortune. The small protrusion in the middle of triangle' s base is consistent with both the goldweight as a representation of a pendant or amulet, or of its actual use as such.
Goldweight in the shape of a three forked branches with rounded tops, attached to a short stump.
Akan goldweights, which were made in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire from the early 15th through the late 19th century, come in two basic kinds: abstract or geometric forms, and figurative shapes. This example, however, seems to defy this categorization, as the varying interpretations of goldweights very similar to this one seems to suggest. This weight could be a representation of a wooden backrest of the kind that the chief would use instead of a chair in times of mourning (in this case, the short end would stand on the floor, with the three longer branches pointing upward). Alternatively, this weight could be a stylized rendering of a chicken's foot-- other examples would sometimes be cast directly off a real-life model. Finally, this shape might represent a limb forking into three branches, or an indigenous religious object, whose function isn't clearly known.
A color print depicting groups of women in kimono and men gathered under blossoming trees. The woman to the far right wears a dark kimono with an undistiguishable pattern. The next woman to her left wears a dark kimono with white dots. To her left is a woman wearing a kimono of multiple layers and single colors. She is surrounded by two girls with matching kimono. The final woman to the far left wears similarly colored material, though not as many layers. The man is wearing an outfit of geometric squares.
A group of one woman and two men is depicted in the back to the left while another group is entering the scene behind them. In gront of the large group are two men talking. Two men appear to be looking outside the screens of the building, and to the right of them is a group of three women and one man talking.
A panorama of courtesans and their clients under cherry trees. The woman near the center has the highest rank and is surrounded by her junior to the left and her two child atendants. The simply dressed woman is a maid. The man in the center is present or future client.
To the left is a second group of women led by a slightly lower ranked courtesan. The older woman on the far left is a retired courtesan. The young man on the right is carrying boxes with the name Kazusaya, the name of a popular brothel.
Le Lutrin, Chant Troisiéme (lc in print); B. Picart Scul. dir. 1717. (lc in print); B. Picart. Sculp. dir. 1728. (ll in print); Engr. by B. Picart for "Le Lutrin" by Boileau. 1728 (verso lc inscribed in pencil)
Three men standing in a surprised movement with an owl coming out of an overturned lectern. There is decorated border around the drawing.
The French satirist Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux wrote Le Lutrin in 1674. This "mock-heroic poem" recounts the quarrel of two church dignitaries over where to place the lectern in the church. This print depicts a scene from the 3rd Canto when three men try to move the lectern in the middle of the night, under the cover of darkness.
Square goldweight or lid of a gold dust box, hollow in the back, with a geometric pattern with 2 spirals in the center and a row of edged teeth along 2 of the sides.
This object might be either a gold weight or the lid of a gold dust box; in either case, it was an integral part of the gold trade in which Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire engaged since at least the 15th century. Patterns consisting of spirals, circles, waves, zigzag lines, bars, edged teeth, bows, or crosses are characteristic not just of weights, but also of other parts of the gold weighing toolkit (called "dja" or "futuo"), such as the lids of the boxes used to contain gold dust.
The hollowed-out base of this example might indicate that this object was in fact used as a lid for a gold dust box. According to some informants, gold dust boxes were sometimes used to divide different amounts of gold dust without the intervention of scales and weights, because the owner would know the amount contained in his various boxes.
Alternatively, the object under consideration might be a gold weight in the strict sense of the term, featuring a hollowed-out base. We know that Akan weights were carefully adjusted by removing or adding metal to achieve greater accuracy. Obviously, weights with a hollow base are lighter than those with a solid base (which may show the same geometric pattern.) Incidentally, this also shows that the representation of a particular graphic pattern on a particular weight does not correlate with its value or measurement.
A portrait of a man in decorated uniform. The man faces the viewer directly, and is painted in bold colors with a watercolor-like effect. Beneath the portrait reads "Georges Picquart", who was an investigator on the Dreyfus trial.