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HOME : African & Tribal Art : African Musical Instruments : Benin Ivory Horn
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Benin Ivory Horn - PF.5579b
Origin: Nigeria
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 13" (33.0cm) high x 1.125" (2.9cm) wide
Collection: African Art
Medium: Ivory

Location: United States
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Even today, when our world leaders and dignitaries make a formal entrance, they are ushered in by a tune. Music both signals their arrivals and separates them from the rest of the crowd. The blaring trumpets and banging drums thus seek to confirm the lofty status of kings and presidents. When one imagines great kings we see red carpets and glittering jewels, and hear the horns playing. Surely, this picture is not too far removed from the Kingdom of Benin. While the Oba would have worn coral and ivory instead of precious gemstones, and the red carpet was perhaps animal skins, the same regal trumpeting would have greeted him, sounded from an ivory horn such as this one. As we today admire musical instruments for their functional beauty and stylish design, much like automobiles, we can easily appreciate the inherent artistry and delicate craftsmanship of this stunning work. The pointed headdress of the Queen Mother is masterfully adapted to the conical termination of the elephant’s tusk. Intricate abstract patterns are carved into decorative bands throughout the horn. This splendid instrument is so much more than that. Although the tunes it once made have been silenced along with the footsteps of the king, this horn retains the marks of the artist’s hands. This horn, like a Stradivarius, is appreciated more for the beauty of its form than for the sounds of its function. - (PF.5579b)


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