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Lot 0093
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Africa, Nigeria, Edo, Court of Benin, ca. mid 19th to early 20th century CE. An impressive bronze cast "choker" head depicting an Oba (king of Benin) wearing a netlike coral cap with aliform flaps and a high coral beaded choker. The elaborate coral choker and aliform coral headdress are significant royal court attributes that identify this as the head of an Oba. Size: 7" in diameter x 13.75" H (17.8 cm x 34.9 cm)

The opening at the top of the head was created for elephant teeth or a sculpted elephant tusk carved to depict the many accomplishments of the king. The visage is nicely rendered with thick-lidded open eyes, six decorative scars above them, a straight nose, slightly parted lips, and a row of circular motifs across the cheeks. A piece like this would have been commissioned by a newly enthroned oba to stand on an altar and commemorate a previous oba, most likely his father. The oba of Benin rules via divine right and serves as the being through which his deified royal ancestors protect and invigorate the kingdom. In Benin, the head is a prominent symbol representing an individual's ability to progress successfully through life and develop himself so that he may one day be a revered and helpful ancestor. The sculptural representation of of Benin rulers with aliform head ornamentation like we see in this example was first introduced by Oba Osemwede (1816-46).

Similar examples may be found in the British Museum, published in Leon Underwood's "Bronzes of West Africa" - figure 31 - (London, 1949) and William B. FAGG: Bildwerke aus Nigeria, München 1963, S. 45; the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum published in Felix von LUSCHAN: Die Altertümer von Benin, Band 1-3, Berlin 1919, Tafel 59; The Perls Collection in The Metropolitain Museum of Art, New York published in Kate EZRA: Royal Art of Benin. The Perls Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1992, S. 36; and several other museum collections.

Provenance: Ex-Sarkisian collection, Denver, CO acquired before 1960

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Minor losses to ring surrounding top central opening and several casting flaws to netted cap. One small abraded area to lower plaited rim. Expected surface wear with areas of white wax remains from cire perdue (lost wax) casting process.

Buyer's Premium

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African Benin Bronze Altar Choker Head of an Oba (King)

Estimate $1,000 - $1,500Mar 15, 2017
686 S. Taylor Avenue Suite 106
Louisville, CO 80027
United States
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