Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Masquerade Element: Leopard Head (Omama)

Date:
17th–19th century
Geography:
Nigeria
Culture:
Yoruba peoples, Owo group
Medium:
Ivory, wood or coconut shell
Dimensions:
H. 6 x W. 2 1/2 x D. 1 1/8 in. (15.2 x 6.4 x 2.8 cm)
Classification:
Bone/Ivory-Ornaments
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1991
Accession Number:
1991.162.5
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 352
The influence of Benin royal art is particularly apparent in Owo, a Yoruba kingdom that came under Benin control in the fifteenth century and again in the eighteenth. Located on the eastern edge of Yorubaland, Owo is almost equidistant from Benin and Ife, the Yoruba cultural and religious center from which the reigning dynasty in Benin traces its origin. Although some Owo artworks resemble the highly naturalistic brass and terracotta sculptures of Ife, the regalia of Owo's kings and chiefs is most like that of their counterparts in Benin.

Owo is renowned for its ivory carving, and many of the ivory ornaments and cups made for Owo's rulers are similar in form or imagery to objects from Benin. The highest-ranking chiefs of Owo used ivory costume elements to demonstrate their exalted status. An interest in pattern and texture is seen in the many ivory ornaments such as this one attached to the Owo rulers' opulent ceremonial costumes. They portray animal heads and human figures and are often inlaid with dark wood or coconut shell to emphasize their boldly incised designs.
[Merton D. Simpson, New York]; Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, New York, until 1991

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