A female figure reclines on a divan on her side with her back toward the viewer; Beneath the divan the dark background is lined with a diamond patterning. Behind the figure are textures suggesting pillows or other textiles.
Suggestive of mystery, sensuality, desire, and the dark spaces of the human psyche, the young girl in this image dreams in an otherworldly space.
Goldweight in the shape of a sword with a smooth handle, covered by a sheath decorated in a pattern of small "bubbles."
Representations of single or double-bladed royal swords are a fairly common motif on the goldweights used and produced by the Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. Actual swords are part of a king's regalia, and are normally covered in a leather sheath, such as in the representation here.
A vase with flowers sits before a window, between two books that lie on a table, and framed by open red curtains. The landscape outside the window shows a blue cloud sky above a body of water.
One of the many paintings mixing elements of still life and landscape that Hartley did after returning to his home state of Maine in the thirties. He was fascinated with the land and lives of New England in his later years, and his works show a mix of European modernism and American regionalism.
An Asante proverb states, "The cobra that blocks the path is going his own way, yet people run away when they see him." According to some informants, this means that once you get a bad reputation, nobody will trust you even when you mean no harm.
The link between the above proverb and the gold weight under consideration here is an example of the "oral-visual nexus" that pervades the cultures of the various Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. Proverbs are indeed an important part of many Akan cultures, and the proper use of proverbs in speech is a crucial skill in order to be considered a serious or wise person. Yet the use and interpretation of a proverb depends not just on knowing its meaning, but on its relevance and particular nuance in the context of its use as well. The problem of ascribing a singular meaning becomes confounded in the case of gold weights or other objects embodying particular proverbs. In fact, the one-on-one relationship between a weight and a proverb is rare, especially in case of single-subject weights, such as this snake (detailed scenes involving two or more objects are often easier to link unambiguously to a particular proverb).
Crocodiles are a common form for the goldweights that have been used and produced by the Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire since the 15th century. In fact, the representation of crocodiles is by no means restricted to weights and is seen on many other Akan art forms as well, particularly those associated with the king, the queen-mother, and the court. Indeed, crocodiles often stand for the king himself-- both are thought to have a versatile character. A number of proverbs relate to crocodiles as well, such as: "The crocodile is in the water but it also breathes air" and "The great (or old) crocodile swallows a stone every year." The latter might either be interpreted as a proverb, meaning that misfortune comes every year and must be accepted as a part of life, or as a royal appellation, in which the king is compared to a great crocodile.