- Museum number
Commemorative head of Queen Mother; lost-wax cast in brass. Naturalistic, almost life-size female head with curving conical hairstyle covered with openwork coral bead net; long strings of coral beads at sides and back. Wears high coral bead collar. Two vertical marks on forehead originally inset with iron; four scarification marks above each eye. Pupils inlaid with iron.
- Production date
Height: 41 centimetres
Weight: 3.90 kilograms
Width: 15.50 centimetres
Depth: 17 centimetres
- Curator's comments
A brass head representing Queen Mother Idia was made to be placed on her altar following her death. It is said that Oba Esigie instituted the title of Queen Mother and established the tradition of casting heads of this type in honour of her military and ritual powers.
Read & Dalton 1899:
Head of a young woman. She wears a high pointed head-dress formed of a network of beads, from the lower end of which depends a fringe formed of strings of similar beads. Like Af1897,1217.3 she has four cicatrices on each eyebrow, and two bands between, but these latter, like the pupils of the eyes, are inlaid with iron.
The perfection of the work both from the technical and the artistic points of view would indicate that it belongs to the earlier period of these works of art.
This specimen, presented by Sir William Ingram, Bart., in 1897, appears like Af1897,1217.3 to be of considerable antiquity, being covered in the same way with a fine green patina.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1970-1973, London, Museum of Mankind, Divine Kingship in Africa
1991 Feb-Apr, Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Man and Metal in Ancient Nigeria
1997-1998 Sep-Jan, Osaka, National Museum of Ethnology, Images of Other Cultures
1998, Feb-Apr, Tokyo, Setagaya Art Museum, Images of Other Cultures
2013 July-November, Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Origins of the Afro Comb
- Good; iron inserts missing on forehead and pupils.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- During the British Expedition to Benin City (Edo) in 1897 objects made of brass, ivory, coral and wood were looted by British soldiers from the royal palace, its storerooms and compounds.
Some of these objects were sold or exchanged on the coast. However, many were brought to the UK where they were sold through private auction, donated to museums, or retained by soldiers of the expedition.
This object was purchased by the donor at a Stevens auction on 24 August 1897. It is described in the catalogue as 'Girl's head in bronze', Lot 218. It previously formed part of the collection of Sir Arthur Vyell Vyvyan who served as Lieutenant on the British Expedition to Benin City.
See Collection File: Af1897,1011.1-6.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number