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Commemorative Head

Unidentified Edo artist
Court of Benin
15th–18th century
Bronze, iron
Place associated
Benin City, Edo state, Western Africa and the Guinea Coast, Nigeria, Africa
Metalwork, sculpture
Current Location
On View, Gallery 102
7 11/16 x 7 1/8 x 6 7/8 in. (19.5 x 18.1 x 17.5 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Purchase
Public Domain
Object Number
In 1936, this sculpture was the first example of sub-Saharan African art to enter the Saint Louis Art Museum’s collection. This work’s high degree of naturalism and fine casting captivated Museum leaders and visitors at a time when few American art museums collected art from sub-Saharan Africa. This bronze had previously been shown in a landmark traveling exhibition of African art organized by the Museum of Modern Art in 1935. Bronze heads, such as this example, were placed on palace shrines to honor a Benin king’s royal predecessor and ancestors. Heads in this style, with minimal headdress, have also been interpreted as “trophy heads,” said to represent the head of an important defeated enemy to commemorate the victory.
f Control of the City Art Museum, March 5, 1936.
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