H x W x D: 207 x 88 x 15.9 cm (81 1/2 x 34 5/8 x 6 1/4 in.)
Ise, Ekiti region, Nigeria
mother and child
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Kuhn
Olowe of Ise is considered by many art historians and art collectors to be the most important Yoruba artist of the 20th century. Active in the first quarter of the century, he designed and carved architectural sculptures for several palaces in the Ekiti region of Yorubaland. His work first became known in Europe when an elaborately carved and painted door and lintel ensemble he had created for the palace of the Ogoga (king) of Ikere was displayed at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition in London. Considered by experts in the British Museum to be "the finest piece of West African carving that has ever reached England," the door and its lintel were acquired for that museum's collection in exchange for a British-made throne.
Olowe's innovative approach to carving the palace doors stands apart from Yoruba low relief work, which typically is flat and even. Olowe, however, carved in exceedingly high and uneven relief. The figures on this panel, the right side of a door, project in profile from the background by as much as 10 centimeters (approximately 4 inches), and the upper bodies of some figures are carved completely in the round. Instead of using static, frontal poses, Olowe turned the heads of the figures in opposition to their bodies to face the viewer. He crossed their legs to suggest walking or dancing motions.
The panel shown here commemorates an actual event. At the end of the 19th century the Arinjale (king) of Ise received the first British traveling commissioners for the Ondo Province. The left side of the door (in a private collection) depicts Major W. R. Reeve-Tucker, the first traveling commissioner, and Captain W. G. Ambrose, his successor, and their entourage of African porters, soldiers, prisoners and British missionaries.
This right panel depicts the Yoruba king and his entourage. The Arinjale, who is mounted on a horse and wears a conical crown surmounted by a bird, is seen in the second register. He is accompanied by a court messenger and a musician. Royal wives and children, guards, priests and others from the palace appear in successive registers. The decapitated female figure in the lowest register is a human sacrifice, an act committed on the rarest occasions to ensure the survival of the community. Originally three vultures pecked at the female's eyes, abdomen and feet; now only the feet of the birds remain. The faces carved on two columns along the length of the door may represent war captives or royal ancestors.
Olowe carved the palace door from iroko, an iron-hard wood highly valued in his time and still used in modern building construction and furniture making. No photograph of Olowe has been located, but his oriki, or chanted attributes, claims that he was handsome and so strong that he could carve iroko wood "as though it were as soft as a calabash."
Title and summary note are provided by Shabnam Rahimi-Golkhandan, FSg curatorial research specialist
Antoin Sevruguin is one of the early pioneers of commercial photography in Iran. He arrived in Iran from Tbilisi, Georgia in the mid 1870s to set up shop in Ala al-Dawla street in Tehran. From the early days, Sevruguin's studio was trusted both by the Qajar court and by foreign visitors to Iran. Highly regarded for their artistic ingenuity outside Iran, Sevruguin's photographs of 'ethnic types,' architecture and landscape, and depictions of daily life of Tehran found their way into foreign travelogues, magazines and books. As such, he stands alone in a relatively large group of early Iranian photographers for being recognized and celebrated outside the boundaries of the country. Antoin Sevruguin passed away in 1933, leaving behind only a fraction of his large collection of glass negatives, which is currently in the Archives of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
- Handwritten number (inked, probably by Antoin Sevruguin) reads, "1029."
- Handwritten information on slip of paper (from a 1943-1944 cash book, produced by the Bathni Brothers, Tehran) reads, "Nasr ed Din + Court." [Myron Bement Smith Collection, Subseries 2.1: Islamic Archives History, Collection Information]
- Myron Bement Smith handwritten caption in English reads, "47.P; Box 16.8: Nasr ud Din and court." [Myron Bement Smith Collection, Subseries 2.1: Islamic Archives History, Collection Information; Box 60; Folder 44: 47 P: Antoine Sevruguin, glass negatives, Iran]
Myron Bement Smith Collection: Antoin Sevruguin Photographs. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. Gift of Katherine Dennis Smith, 1973-1985
Howard University, Varsity Debating Team, center position, Lorenzo Dow Turner
Scurlock, Addison N., 1883-1964
1 photographic print : gelatin silver
Lorenzo Dow Turner Papers, Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Lois Turner Williams
Lorenzo Dow Turner (1890-1972), son of Rooks Turner and Elizabeth Freeman Turner, was born on August 21, 1890, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Recognized as the father of Gullah studies, the African American linguist received an A.B. in English from Howard University in 1914 (cum laude), an A.M. in English from Harvard University in 1917, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Chicago in 1926.
Turner was one of the first scholars to recognize the importance of documenting the Gullah-speaking communities in South Carolina and Georgia. His pioneering field work and research there and in Brazil and Nigeria provided an intellectual foundation for later scholars interested in studying African American culture and the survival of elements of African culture in the western hemisphere.
Henry Bazemore Collection of Frederick Douglass Dwellings Photographs, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Built as temporary housing for World War II workers, the Frederick Douglass Dwellings were located on land previously owned by Tobias Henson, a former slave, who, after purchasing his freedom and that of his family, purchased and developed a 24-acre tract called The Ridge. Henson added to his landholdings and by the 1870s his family was the principal landholder in the black community of Stantontown; they remained on the land until the 1940s, when the federal government condemned the community to build the Frederick Douglass Dwellings. Deemed uninhabitable in 1998 and left vacant, the Frederick Douglass Dwellings were demolished in 2000 to make way for a new mixed-income community.
The collection, dated circa 1940s, documents the lives and activities of the residents of the Frederick Douglass Dwellings.