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(Britain, London, 1745–84)
Overall: 23.5 x 17.6 x 18.7 cm (9 1/4 x 6 15/16 x 7 3/8 in.)
Bequest of Mary Warden Harkness 1917.601.2
Figural representations of the four continents date back to the 1500s, but such imagery became even more popular in the 1700s as European empires expanded.
Often collected by wealthy British merchants who were beneficiaries of colonial expansion, figural groups were frequently part of elaborate table decorations meant to signify wealth and global dominance. In this work, Africa, who wears an elephant headdress and holds a scorpion in one hand, wrestles with Asia, who is surrounded by perfumes and native fruits. These depictions of Africa and Asia reveal a purely imagined understanding of faraway places.
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