The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of February 17, 2024

Ancestral Commemorative Head (uhunmwun-elao)

Ancestral Commemorative Head (uhunmwun-elao)

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.)

Did You Know?

The obas (kings) of the Benin Kingdom still wear coral headpieces and jewelry like this sculpted head depicts.

Description

Brass heads are among many objects a new Ọba commissions when dedicating a shrine to their predecessor. This head of an Ọba wears layered necklaces of royal coral beads. Tubular beads adorn both the netted cap and slender braids alongside his temples. While representing an individual, his facial features and calm expression are idealized. The thickly cast head once supported a tusk. Immune to corrosion, brass symbolizes royal permanence. A personal religious object, this head sat on an ancestral altar in the Ọba’s palace. Like many works taken from Benin altars, this contrasts with its present-day public display in an American museum.
  • Possibly mid-1500s or early 1600s.
    Commissioned from the Igun Eronmwon
    c.1857–1897
    By descent to Ọba Ovọnramwẹn (Ovọnramwẹn Nogbaisi [c. 1857–1914; r. 1888–1897], Royal Palace, Benin City
    1897
    Brought to Europe following the Siege of Benin
    c. 1929–1932
    (Fosters & Co., London or France, probably sold to Louis Carré and/or Charles Ratton)
    by at least 1937
    (Louis Carré, Paris, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH January 17, 1938)
    1938–
    The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • Milliken, William M. "Treasure of Ivories and Bronzes from the Ancient Kingdom of Benin." The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 24, no. 3 (1937): 35-36. illustrated, unnumbered plate www.jstor.org
    Foote, Helen S. 1938. "Two Bronzes from Benin". Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art. 25: 48-50. mentioned p. 49; illustrated p. 48 www.jstor.org
    "Au Cleveland Museum of Art." Mouseion. (April 1938) 13-14. Mentioned: p. 13
    Washington Howard University Gallery of Art. Exhibition of African Negro Art. Washington: Howard University Gallery of Art, 1953. cat no. 33
    The Cleveland Museum of Art. The Cleveland Museum of Art Handbook. Cleveland, OH: The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1958. Mentioned and Reproduced: cat. no. 386 archive.org
    Burton, Richard. "In Cleveland: The Idea of a Museum." Museums Journal 63, no. 4 (1964): 263-73. p. 266, fig.70
    The Cleveland Museum of Art. Handbook of the Cleveland Museum of Art/1966. Cleveland, OH: The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1966. Reproduced: p. 303 archive.org
    Fagg, William. African Tribal Images; the Katherine White Reswick Collection. [Cleveland]: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1968. no. 144
    Moore, Janet Gaylord. The Many Ways of Seeing: An Introduction to the Pleasures of Art. 1968.
    The Cleveland Museum of Art. Handbook of the Cleveland Museum of Art/1969. Cleveland, OH: The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1969. Reproduced: p. 303 archive.org
    Cleveland Museum of Art, and Berthold Fricke. The Cleveland Museum of Art. Hannover: Knorr & Hirth, 1970. p. 102
    The Cleveland Museum of Art. Handbook of the Cleveland Museum of Art/1978. Cleveland, OH: The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1978. Reproduced: p. 411 archive.org
    Anderson, Ross, and Barbara Perry. The Diversions of Keramos: American Clay Sculpture, 1925-1950. 1983. p. 79, repr. p. 79, fig. 6:5.
    Cleveland Museum of Art, and Henry John Drewal. African Art: A Brief Guide to the Collection : the Cleveland Museum of Art. [Cleveland]: The Museum, 1989. fig.5.
    Cleveland Museum of Art. Interpretations: Sixty-Five Works from the Cleveland Museum of Art. 1991. no. 41
    Perani, Judith, and Fred. T. Smith. The Visual Arts of Africa: Gender, Power, and Life Cycle Rituals. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998. fig. 6.7, pp. 175-176
    May, Sally Ruth, Jane Takac, and Barbara J. Bradley. Knockouts: A Pocket Guide. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 2001. no. 69, p. 67, 118
    Petridis, Constantijn. South of the Sahara: selected works of African art. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 2003. Reproduced: cat. 25, p. 80 - 81
    Binder, Lisa, "Mr. Aitken, I Presume", Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland Art: The Cleveland Museum of Art Members Magazine. Vol. 44 no. 05, May 2004 Mentioned & reproduced: p. 12 archive.org
    Petridis, Constantine. "A World of Great Art for Everyone." In Representing Africa in American Art Museums: A Century of Collecting and Display. Kathleen Bickford Berzock and Christa Clarke, 104-121. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2011. Mentioned: p. 113, 119
    Cleveland Museum of Art. The CMA Companion: A Guide to the Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 2014. Mentioned and reproduced: P. 31; Reproduced: P. 26-27
    Windmuller-Luna, Kristen. “Art from the Benin Kingdom.” Cleveland Art: Cleveland Museum of Art Members Magazine 61, no. 1 (Winter 2021): 34-35. Reproduced: P. 34; Mentioned: P. 35.
    Digital Benin, Markk Museum Am Rothenbaum Kulturen und Kunste der Welt, (Last Updated: 2021-02-13) ID 117905 digitalbenin.org
  • Treasure of Ivories and Bronzes from the Ancient Kingdom of Benin. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (March 10-April 11, 1937).
    The Silver Jubilee Exhibition. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (June 23-September 28, 1941).
    Exhibition of the Month: Texture in Art. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (October 6-December 8, 1947).
    African Negro Art. Howard University, Founders Library Art Gallery, Washington, DC (May 6– 31, 1953) .
    Seaway Luncheons.. East Ohio Gas Company Building, Cleveland, OH (week of June 8, 1959).
  • {{cite web|title=Ancestral Commemorative Head (uhunmwun-elao)|url=false|author=|year=possibly mid-1500s or early 1600s|access-date=17 February 2024|publisher=Cleveland Museum of Art}}

Source URL:

https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1938.6