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Benin ivory mask

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Last Updated: 28 November 2020

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Benin ivory mask

CreatedEarly 16th century
Depth3 1/4 in (8.3 cm)
Height9 3/8 in (23.8 cm)
MaterialIvory, iron inlay
Present locationMetropolitan Museum of Art , British Museum , Seattle Art Museum , Linden Museum , private collection
Width5 in (12.7 cm)

Benin Ivory Mask is a portrait of Queen Mother Idia of Benin Empire in 16 century, made like an African Traditional Mask. This miniature sculpture was worn as a pendant by the queen's son, Oba Esigie. There are two almost identical pendant masks today, One of them is at the British Museum in London, and the other one is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Bought masks are portraits of the Queen and symbolize the legacy of the Benin dynasty that continues to the present day. Other examples of this pendant can be found in the Seattle Art Museum, and Linden Museum and one pendant is part of a private collection. They are all taken in 1897, during the Benin Expedition. The mask of Queen Mother Idia became a cultural emblem of modern Nigeria in 1977. When Portuguese explorers first made contact with Benin Empire, Oba Esigie became very powerful. Trading and diplomacy with Europeans bring Esigie and Bini people prosperity. Bini people trade in many things such as Ivory, cloth, pepper, textiles and much more. During his reign, his mother was awarded the title of Iyoba, which means Queen Mother, and she was first in the tradition of women advisors. At least two of the masks that were found during the Expedition feature Portuguese imagery, and it is thought that they were created in the early 16 century by the same artist. The details of masks match the carving qualities of the early period of Benin Art. Almost all of the Ivory works that were made by Empire were for Kings who used them in rituals. They were used in ceremonies like Ugie Iyoba and Emobo purification ceremony. During the Emobo ceremony, these kinds of pendants were used to chase evil spirits, but throughout history, these traditions may have been change. In this type of Benin Art, depiction of a woman is rare, but Queen Idia was exceptional because, according to Edo tradition, this is the only woman who goes to war. There is a bronze Head of Queen Idia from Ancient Benin that was also found in the Expedition of 1897. Read another story from us: Republic of Benin was one of the shortest-lived countries in history. At same year, it was presented to the British Museum by Sir William Ingram. Today, these masks can be seen in different regions of the world as bronze brooches, street graffiti, and there are copies which can be bought at the National Museum of Nigeria.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

Origins and history

In the early 16 Century, dynamic Esigie rule Benin Empire of Edo people as its Oba. He came to power as Portuguese explorers first made contact with the Empire. Trade and diplomacy with Europe bring Esigie and Edo prosperity and regional influence as the Empire trade pepper, ivory, local textiles, and slaves for brass, cloth, coral beads, and mercenaries for protection. Esigie engaged in two major conflicts. First, his half-brother fought protract civil war over the line of succession that would crown Esigie, firstborn. Second, Esigie successfully defended against the invasion from northern Igala Kingdom and captured their leader. Esigie rewarded his key political and physical advisor during these trials, his Mother Idia, with the title of Iyoba first in the tradition of Queen Mother advisors. Identification with Idia was made by Oba Akenzua II in the mid-20 Century.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

Description and interpretation

Two almost identical masks are extant: one at the British Museum in London and the other at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Both feature the serene face of the Queen Mother wearing bead headdress, bead choker at her neck, scarification highlighted by iron inlay on her forehead, and all framed by a flange of openwork tiara and collar of symbolic beings, as well as double loops at each side for attachment of Pendant. There are also examples on the same theme at the Seattle Art Museum and Linden Museum, and one in private collection, all taken during the Benin Expedition of 1897. The mask has also become a cultural emblem of Modern Nigeria since the Pan-Africanist FESTAC 77 cultural festival in 1977.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

Legacy

Sothebys is expected to sell a very rare Benin Mask, which could well set a record price for an African work of art. The Ivory Mask dates from around 1500, and is one of a small group of similar pieces which were looted by British troops in west Africa in 1897. Sothebys example is thought to have been acquired by Sir Henry Gallwey, leader of the Benin Punitive Expedition. African Art specialist Professor John Picton describes Mask, which has never been publicly exhibit, as having almost mythical status, as one not yet in captivity. Other examples are all in museums. Benin treasure may be put into Sothebys African and Oceanic sale in Paris in early December. So far it has not been formally consign, but work will be accepted until early October. Benin ivory masks attracted international attention in 1977, when an example at the British Museum was chosen as symbols of the Festival of Black Arts and Culture in Lagos. A Nigerian government request to return BM Mask was submit, but the Museum responded that it was unable to de-accession and the item was too fragile to lend. Curators of an important exhibition on Benin that tour to Vienna, Paris, Berlin and Chicago in 2007-08 also tried to borrow one of the masks, but this proved difficult. Its catalogue describes BM example as one of the most reproduced African artworks and a powerful icon for African culture and history. In 1892, Sir Henry Gallwey, vice-consul of Niger Coast Protectorate, had gone to Benin City, hoping to annex it as a British colony. Oba ovonramwen resisted his attempts. When a group of British soldiers were killed by Obas troops in January 1897, Punitive Expedition was dispatched by the UK Admiralty, which looted and destroyed Benin capital. A treasure trove of magnificent sculptures were seize, most of which were in bronze, but few were in ivory. Ovonramwen surrendered and was exile. Masks were found on a wooden chest in Ovonramwen's bedroom. They are believed to depict Queen Mother Idia, Mother of Isigie, who became Oba in 1504. Masks held important ritual functions for nearly four centuries, and would be worn around the waist of Oba as part of his regalia. Five such masks are know. The Two most important examples are in BM and New Yorks Metropolitan Museum. Two others, which are slightly smaller, are at the Seattle Art Museum and Linden Museum in Stuttgart. There is Mask being handled by Sothebys, for example, which is believed to have remained in the family. There are unconfirmed reports of another in private collection. Although there has been strong pressure to return Benin works of Art to Nigeria, there would be little legal basis for claim on Gallwey Mask. Nigerians stress that Benin treasures were forcibly removed in 1897, but there has been no demand for restitution by the federal government in recent years.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

Sources

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

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