Head of a dignitary

Africa | Nigeria

Head of a dignitary

Nigeria

Commemorative head of a dignitary
Kingdom of Benin, present-day Nigeria

Carved wood and metal
19th century
Height: 15 ½ in. (39 cm)

Ex collection Dr Pierre-Alain Kahn, Paris
Ex collection Henry-Georges Müller, Paris

Commemorative head Benin Kingdom / www.galerieflak.com Price on request
According to Kate Ezra in “Royal Art of Benin”, New York 1992, p. 29, representations of the head are a major feature of Benin art, just as the head itself is a central focus of Benin ritual. Benin traditions state that cast brass heads were introduced for royal ancestors during the reign of Oba Oguola, the fifth Oba, or king, in the current dynasty, who probably reigned in the late fourteenth century (…) Before 1897 cast brass heads were placed on altars dedicated to each of the past Obas of Benin, while heads in wood were placed on the ancestral shrines of chiefs. One of a new Oba's first responsibilities was to establish an altar commemorating his father and to commission brasscasters and ivory carvers to create objects to decorate it. Such an altar is a tribute to the achievements of the deceased father, and a point of contact with his spirit”
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