African art > Bronze, leopard, messenger, warrior, statue, pirogues > Large Royal Altar Head Benin

Large Royal Altar Head Benin (N° 10789)

Ex private English collection of African art.

Altar heads are famous pieces in benign art. Like the other bronzes, they were cast using the lost wax technique. These pieces are very loaded with details and patterns. This royal head with realistic features has facial scarifications and many finely detailed ornaments. A recurring feature, the warhead headdress is imposing and beautifully decorated.

The art of Benin is described as a court art because it is closely associated with the king, known as oba. The tradition of Ifè's bronze classroom objects dates back to the 14th century.

The many bronze heads and statues created by the artists of Benin were reserved for the exclusive use of the inhabitants of the royal palace and, more often than not, placed on altars consecrated by each new oba, king of the ethnic group. These rectangular altars were topped with heads, statues, carved ivory tusks, bells and sticks. They were used to commemorate an oba and to get in touch with his spirit.

The benign bronzes are arguably among the most famous of Black African tribal art. In fact, they were in large quantities taken over by Western museums, especially from the beginning of the 20th century. This period is not trivial because at that time, the British government was putting pressure on the oba for economic reasons. In this context, and following the assassination of a young British consul and his delegation, a punitive expedition led by the admiral of the Royal Navy, Sir Harry Rawson, plundered, massacred and burned down the city of Benin. The royal treasure of the oba, consisting of about 2500 coins, was repatriated to Europe and scattered.  


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OriginEx collection anglaise
Material(s)bronze africain
Height cm120
Width35 cm
Weight30.00 Kg
Estimated datingcirca 1950

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