About this artwork
This brass head was commissioned by a newly crowned king for an altar commemorating a previous ruler, most likely the king’s father. Its shape imitates the regal coral-beaded collar and cap and served as the pedestal for a carved elephant tusk, the white color of which signaled the king’s divine and sacred nature. In Benin thought, the head is an important symbol of authority and power. Through this portrait a king channeled his deified ancestors to vitalize and protect his reign.
- Head (Uhunmwun Elao)
- Made 1701–1825
- H. 32.4 cm (12 3/4 in.)
- Major Acquisitions Centennial Endowment