About This Artwork

Olowe of Ise (died 1938)
Yoruba
Ikere, Ekiti region, Nigeria
From the palace of the ogoga (king) of Ikere

Veranda Post of Enthroned King and Senior Wife (Opo Ogoga), 1910/14

Wood and pigment
152.5 x 31.75 x 40.6 cm (60 x 12 1/2 x 16 in.)

Major Acquisitions Centennial Fund, 1984.550

This veranda post is one of four sculpted for the palace at Ikere by the renowned Yoruba artist Olowe of Ise. It is considered among the artist's masterpieces for the way it embodies his unique style, including the interrelationship of figures, their exaggerated proportions, and the open space between them. While the king is the focal point, his portrayal suggests a ruler's dependence on others. The stately female figure behind the king represents his senior wife. Her large scale and pose, with hands on the king's throne, underscore her importance. She had the critical role of placing the power-invested crown on the king's head during his coronation. Moreover, the senior wife used political acumen and spiritual knowledge to protect the king's interests during his reign. The small figures at the king's feet represent a junior wife, the flute-playing trickster-god Esu, and a fan bearer, now missing.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2009, p. 16.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, Center for African Art, Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought, Sept. 21, 1989–Jan. 7, 1990, cat. 241; traveled to Art Institute of Chicago, Feb. 10–Apr. 1, 1990, Washington D.C., National Museum of African Art, May 8–Aug. 26, 1990, Cleveland Museum of Art, Sept. 26–Dec. 9, 1990, New Orleans Museum of Art, Jan. 11–Mar. 24, 1991, and Atlanta, High Museum, Apr. 23–June 16, 1991, Phoenix Art Museum, Sept. 4-Oct. 6.

Washington, D.C., National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Anonymous Has a Name: Olowe of Ise, A Yoruba Court Artist, Mar. 11–Sept. 1, 1998, no cat.

Publication History

Eva L. R Meyerowitz, “Wood-carving in Yoruba Country Today,” Africa 14, no. 2 (April 1943), pp. 66-70.

William Fagg and Margaret Plass, African Sculpture, (Studio Vista, a Dutton Vista Paperback, 1964), p. 91.

Esther Pasztory, "Hieratic Composition of West African Art," The Art Bulletin, 52 (1970), pp. 209-306, pl. 4.

Jacqueline DeLange, The Art and Peoples of Black Africa (E.P. Dutton & Co., 1974), pl. 76.

William Fagg and John Pemberton, Yoruba Sculpture of West Africa (Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), p. 160 (ill.).

J.C. Moughtin, ed., The Work of Z.R. Dmochowski: Nigerian Traditional Architecture, exh. cat. (Ethnographica, 1988), p. 37.

John Pemberton, "Art and Rituals for Yoruba Sacred Kings," Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 15, 2 (1989) pp. 96–111 (ill.).

Z.R. Dmochowski, An Introduction to Nigerian Traditional Architecture, vol. II, South-West and Central Nigeria (Ethnographica and National Commission of Museums and Monuments Nigeria, 1990), pl. 2.45 (ill.).

Roslyn Adele Walker, "The Ikere Palace: Veranda Posts by Olowe of Ise," African Arts 24, 1 (1991), p. 77.

Antonio Acosta Mallo and Pilar Llull Martinez de Boya, Arte del Africa Negra (Tribal Investigation and Preservation of African Art Center, 1992), p. 141 (ill.).

Herbert M. Cole, "Africa in the Dictionary of Art," African Arts (Winter 1997), p. 63 (ill.).

Moyo Okediji, "Art of the Yoruba," African Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 23, 2 (1997), pp. 168-169, no. 25 (ill.).

Holland Cotter, "Anonymous Tribal Artisans Look Again," New York Times, Arts and Leisure section, Sunday, April 12, 1998.

Francis Kianka, ed., Olowe of Ise: A Yoruba Sculptor to Kings, exh. cat. (National Museum of African Art, 1998), figs. 10, 11, 12, 16 (ill.).

Raoul Lehuard, “Les Expositions,” Arts D’Afrique Noire, no. 106 (Summer 1998), pp. 45-55; 52 (ill.).

Roslyn A. Walker, Ọlọ́wẹ̀ of Isẹ̀: A Yoruba Sculptor to Kings (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, 1998), fig. 4.

Kathleen Bickford Berzock, "African Art at the Art Institute of Chicago," African Arts 32, 4 (Winter 1999), pp. 30-31, fig. 15 (ill.).

Richard F. Townsend and Kathleen Bickford Berzock, “The Art Institute of Chicago New Galleries for African Art and Indian Art of the Americas,” in Tribal Arts 16-1, no. 62 (Winter 2011), p. 67, fig. 21.

Yomi Ola, Satires of Power in Yoruba Visual Culture (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2013), pp. 47–52; 50 (ill.).

Ownership History

Onijagbo Obasoro Alowolodu, Ogaga (King) of Ikere (reigned 1890-1928), Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria, from 1914; by descent to his heirs, Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria and later Federal Republic of Nigeria, until at least 1964 [in situ photographs from 1937, 1959, and 1964, copies in curatorial file]. Gaston T. de Havenon (died 1993), New York, N.Y., by 1981 [documentation in curatorial file]; sold to the Art Institute, 1984.




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