Queen Mother Head, Benin Kingdom, Nigeria. Bronze, copper alloy.
This bronze head from Benin, Nigeria, is an excellent example of good craftsmanship. It is an earlier brass commemorative head, which possesses natural facial features as it has a smaller neck and proportionate facial features and is thought to be of Idia, the first Benin Queen Mother.
The head is very similar to one of eighteen copper alloy sculptures which was found by English archaeologists in 1938 at Ife in Nigeria, the religious and former royal center of the Yoruba people
When the Ife heads first appeared many experts compared them to the highest achievements of ancient Roman or Greek art. When Leo Frobenius discovered the first example of a similar head it undermined existing Western understanding of African civilization. Experts could not believe that Africa had ever had a civilization capable of creating artefacts of this quality. Attempting to explain what was thought an anomaly, Frobenius offered his theory that these had been cast by a colony of ancient Greeks established in the thirteenth century BC. He made a claim, widely circulated in the popular press, that his hypothesized ancient Greek colony could be the origin of the ancient legend of the lost civilization of Atlantis.
Provenance: From the heirs of a private collector in South Africa. It is unknown where the collector got the head from.
Age: Most probably early 17th–18th century according to comparisons with similar findings contained in the British Museum.
Condition: The head is in perfect condition and appears in a dark patinated copper-bronze color. No bumps, but quite small almost invisible holes in the spaces in the back of the hair hairstyle
Dimensions: H: 53, W: 15,5, D: 22 cm. – Weight: 5,85 kilos.
Suzanne Preston Blier, Art and Risk in Ancient Yoruba: Ife History, Politics, and Identity c.1300, Cambridge University Press, 2015.
John Mack (ed), Africa, Arts and Cultures, London 2005
Editha Platte, Bronze Head from Ife, British Museum Press, 2010