African art > African bronze > Ife mask
Bronze Ifé commemorative head (N° 18118)
French African art collection.
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She represents the Oni, king of Ife city cradle of the Yorubas, with its crown on its head, a cone overlooking it. Today, the king of Ifé wears a similar function badge, formed of a vertical segment braided and finished at the top by a sharp bulge. Such a head was attached to the top of a wooden effigy, dressed, to represent the late king at the funeral, and then buried after the ceremony in a shrine near the palace.
The city of Ife in Nigeria was in the 15th century the centre of a powerful forest state in the western Niger Delta. The work of bronze was a prerogative of the king,'s time, according to the technique of lost wax. These prestigious objects embodying the sovereigns were placed on the royal altars for ceremonial use. It is said to be a craftsman of Ilé-Ifé who would have taught the Edo of the kingdom Benin the art of metals. The craftsmen of Ilé-Ifé, however, were more attached to the resemblance of their portraits than those of Benin, who seemed to sink their emblematic works into rather similar moulds. The parallel folds on the neck would evoke the folds of flesh of the prosperous notables, and the hollowed-out parts that accompany it were to be used to secure the beaded veil of the king.
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