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Work of the Week: Royal Tunic and Coronet

The Yoruba people of southwestern and north-central Nigeria and southern and central Benin appreciate beads and beadwork for the color variation they provide as well as the patterns they can create, both flat and three-dimensional. This resplendent tunic, created in the early to mid-20th century, represents power and domination, with the front flanked by two male figures and the back decorated with a snake and another male figure. Geometric patterns decorate the rest of the tunic, complemented by the beaded cap, which features a densely textured interlaced motif with strong royal associations. Prominent Yoruba men of contemporary society wear such beaded garments as an expression of power, status, and divine sanction.

See the Royal Tunic and Coronet and other African artworks in Gallery 137.


Royal Tunic and Coronet, early/mid-20th century. Yoruba. Odo-Ona Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria. Owned by Oba (King) Dele Adeshina of Odo-Ona Ilorin. Restricted gift of Cynthia and Terry E. Perucca; African and Amerindian Art Purchase Fund.