Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Cast bronze head of a young woman, probably representing Queen Idia. The eyes are inlaid with iron.

  • Ethnic name

  • Date

    • 16thC(early)
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 41 centimetres
    • Width: 15.5 centimetres
    • Depth: 17 centimetres
    • Weight: 3.9 kilograms
  • Curator's comments

    From Exhibition Label "commemorative head for altar, probably representing Idia, the mother of Oba (King) Esigie of Benin".A brass head representing Queen Idia was made to be placed in 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. Such heads were placed in altars in the palace and in the Queen Mother's residence.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.


  • Bibliography

    • Read & Dalton 1899 pl IX.4 bibliographic details
  • Location

    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

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number


Figure (female head) made of bronze, iron.

Figure (female head) made of bronze, iron.

Image description



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Object reference number: EAF14446

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