African Royal Court Art

African Royal Court Art


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African Royal Court Art by Michele Coquet

In this visually stunning work, anthropologist Michèle Coquet presents the power and the brilliance of African court arts. Grounding her analysis in the social and historical context of traditional royalty systems, Coquet examines the diverse roles played by artisans, nobles, and kings in the production and use of royal objects. From the precolonial kingdoms of the Edo and the Yoruba, the Ashanti and the Igbo, Coquet reconstructs from a comparativist view the essential cultural connections between art, representation, and the king.

More than ornamentation, royal objects embodied the strength and status of African rulers. The gold-plated stools of the Ashanti, the delicately carved ivory bracelets of the Edo-these objects were meant not simply to adorn but to affirm and enhance the power and prestige of the wearer. Unlike the abstract style frequently seen in African ritual art, realism became manifest in courtly arts. Realism directly linked the symbolic value of the object-a portrait or relief-with the physical person of the king. The contours of the monarch's face, his political and military exploits rendered on palace walls, became visual histories, the work of art in essence corroborating the ruler's sovereign might.

Richly illustrated and wonderfully detailed, Coquet's influential volume offers both a splendid visual presentation and an authoritative analysis of African royal arts.

"[This] beautiful and exciting book emphasizes the skillful court art of the Benin, Dahomey, and the Kongo. A very interesting and unusual approach to the art of the continent that has been too easily situated 'outside of history.'"—Le Figaro

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226115757
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 12/01/1998
Edition description: 1
Pages: 189
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Jane Marie Todd has translated some seventy books, including Writing, Law, and Kingship in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Table of Contents

1: Empires, Kingdoms, and Chieftaincies: The King's Singularity
2: A Few Conceptions of the Portrait
3: History Told in Images
4: Insignia of Sovereignty and Court Objects
5: Elements of Archaeology and History
Map of Empires, Kingdoms, and Cities
Map of Ethnic Groups Cited
Photographic Credits

What People are Saying About This


More than a magnificent album, this book is a rare chance to become better acquainted with an ancient human civilization. The art of these neglected African realms enables Coquet to touch not only on dance, textiles, embroidery, sculpture, music, and goldsmithing but also on the African spirit.
— Ecrivain

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