The Art of the Personal Object

Male head
Edo peoples, Benin Kingdom, Nigeria
Copper alloy, iron
22.2 cm (8 3/4 in.)
82-5-2, purchased with funds provided by
the Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program,

Bryna Freyer, curator

Most of the commemorative heads, figures, pendants, plaques and other objects in this exhibition were included in a gift from Joseph H. Hirshhorn to the Smithsonian Institution and transferred to the National Museum of African Art in 1985 by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Produced between the 16th and 19th centuries, the works reveal the elaborate rituals and regalia of the king and his courtiers, as well as the influences of European traders and missionaries who reached the kingdom beginning in the 15th century.

The exhibition is divided into three sections: focusing on objects directly relating to the oba, or king; works revealing the rituals and regalia of the royal court; and items that stylistically reflect the presence of foreigners, particularly Europeans.

Back to: NMAfA past exhibits