possibly mid-1500s or early 1600s
Overall: 29.9 x 21.6 x 20.4 cm (11 3/4 x 8 1/2 x 8 1/16 in.)
Dudley P. Allen Fund 1938.6
This brass head represents a Benin ruler wearing accouterments that speak to his divine power, such as the elaborate headdress and the beaded collar around his neck. Also notice the scarification, or intentional skin marking, above his eyes. The practice of scarification is common among some African peoples as it denotes the ethnicity or clan ties of the individuals who bear them.
Metal arts flourished in the Benin kingdom from the 1400s to 1800s, until the British military sacked the Benin capital in 1897. This brass head depicts the divine Benin ruler cloaked in a headdress and collar of red coral beads. Such heads were ordered by a new king (oba) as centerpieces for the ancestral altar—an earthen platform—in honor of his deceased predecessor.
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