Galerie Peter Herrmann
Ancient Art from Africa
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Mask of the Edo People, Nigeria
Photo: Peter Herrmann

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Memorial Head of a Queen Mother Thermoluminescence - Expertise

Benin, Nigeria
appr. 1890
43 cm


Zur Expertise
Most heads of this type tend to feature highly stylised and diagrammatic characteristics. In contrast, the face of this head is rendered with relative delicacy. Rosettes made from large, conical pearls are fastened to the sides of the bouffant pearl head covering, while strings of pearls hang down both in front of and behind the ears. In addition to these central pearls, three bulging bumps are affixed to the forehead, each meant to represent a decorative scar. Beginning right under the mouth, the neck is adorned with several coral necklaces, meant as signs of the Queen Mother's wealth. The base of the memorial head, which does not usually feature any deeply symbolic objects, has been almost totally destroyed.

The opening in the head was intended for elephant teeth, which normally illustrated the full spectrum of the king's accomplishments. It is not clear whether the elephant tooth in this head was engraved with the feats of the Queen Mother herself or those she helped the Oba achieve. Depictions of females are very rare in Benin and exist almost exclusively in the form of Queen Mother heads. Female members of court society, for example, never appear on relief plaques at all.

At 120 years old, this head dates to the late phase of Benin culture. It has an age-appropriate and nicely evolved patina. The overall condition is excellent, with no damage. The piece was acquired in Lomé, Togo in 2015.

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Similar objects   Illustration
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum
Felix von LUSCHAN: Die Altertümer von Benin, Band 1-3, Berlin 1919, Tafel 62 und 63.
1898 erworben von A. Maschmann
Maria Kecskési: Kunst aus dem alten Afrika. Innsbruck 1982, S. 152.
Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig
Kunst aus Benin. Afrikanische Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Hans Meyer, Grassimuseum, Leipzig 2002, S. 83.
Museum für Völkerkunde Wien, Slg. H. Meyer, Slg. G. Haas
Armand Duchateau: Benin. Kunst einer afrikanischen Königskultur, München 1995, S. 51, 52.
British Museum, London; Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden
Philip J. C. DARK: An introduction to Benin art and technology, Oxford 1973, Tafel 28.
Lindenmuseum Stuttgart
Lindenmuseum. Abteilungsführer Afrika Stuttgart. 1989, S. 53.
Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum für Völkerkunde, Köln
Barbara PLANKENSTEINER (Hg.): Benin. Könige und Rituale. Höfische Kunst aus Nigeria, Wien 2007, S. 397.

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