Benin War Head | Benin African Art | Fashor and Eagar Fine African Art
Fashor and Eagar, purveyors and auctioneers of fine African art bring you an outstanding African art collection, largely from private collections. We strive to bring you the finest aged African art forms, originally created as much for function as for beauty.
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A most unusually thin and delicately cast Benin head in copper alloy, this magnificent Benin classic is a masterpiece of Benin craftsmanship that transcends time.
Often being misidentified as the casting of an Oba’s head, this genre of castings were later identified to be castings of trophy heads or Benin war head of enemy rulers vanquished in war, modelled after the earliest castings of the lower profile heads of the Oba, (Paula Girshick Ben-Amos, Frank Willet & Chief Ihama), which would explain the confusion. The “cat-whiskers” facial scarification that adorn the face are not indigenous to Benin, evidence that further reinforce the identity of the casting.
According to Chief Ihama of the Benin caster’ guild (Willet, 1994), “In the old days, they used to cut off the heads of conquered kings and bring them to the Oba who would send it to our guild for casting. They did not necessary cast the heads of all captured rulers, just the most stubborn among them. If it happened that the senior son of a rebel king was put on the throne, the Oba would send him the cast head of his father to warn him of how his father was dealt with. In the old days, these heads were kept in the Shrine of the Ancestors of Benin Nation”.
Another prominent Benin art scholar, Dr. Joseph Nevadomsky (1986) suggested the contrary, that these Benin War head were displayed in the Aro-Okuo, the shrine of war.