African art > Bronze, leopard, messenger, warrior, statue, pirogues > Tête Ifé
Tête Ifé (N° 16659)
Figurative bronzes in the African art of ancient Yoruba civilizations
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The city of Ifé in Nigeria was in the 15th century the center of a powerful forest state west of the Niger Delta. The work of bronze was a prerogative of King "oni", according to the technique of lost wax. These prestigious objects embodying the sovereigns were placed on the royal altars for ceremonial use. This commemorative sculpture in the naturalistic style depicts a royal figure proudly wearing a very crafted helmet. The vertical streaks on his face evoke the traditional scarifications of the ethnic group named after Nigeria's former religious capital, Ifè. This bronze head is inspired by those produced by the sculptors of Ilé-Ifé and testifies to their great skill in the treatment of faces. He is said to have taught the Edo of the Benin kingdom the art of metals. The craftsmen of Ilé-Ifé, however, were more attached to the resemblance of their portraits than those in Benin, who seemed to pour their emblematic works into fairly 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 king's beaded veil. The holes around the mouth probably symbolized a beard created by the fixation of hair or beads, while those at the base of the neck, they could facilitate adapatation on a wooden body during funeral ceremonies.
The bronze heads were made using the lost wax technique, a technique that may have been imported from Sudan or brought back from the outskirts of the Mediterranean by itinerant blacksmiths who used it to make knives and bells.
The title of Ooni refers to the religious leader of Ifè. At the time of accession to the throne, the king sent presents to the Ooni in office. The latter responded with three objects symbolizing power and authority: a stick, a cap and a copper cross. After seven years of rule, the king was put to death and replaced. These bronze heads were intended for use in funeral ceremonies. Source: "Benin", ed. Mr. Snoeck.
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|Material(s)||alliage de bronze|
|Estimated dating||bronze tardif|
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