Queen Mother Brass Heads, Benin, Nigeria

(Left) Queen Mother Head, c.1500-50, Benin (Nigeria), Brass, height 15 1/2″ (39 cm), British Museum, London

This is an earlier brass commemorative head, which possesses more natural facial features as it has a smaller neck and proportionate facial features. Its walls are cast thinner than those of the later brass heads. This particular head is thought to be of Idia, the first Benin Queen Mother. (1)

(Centre) Head of a Queen Mother (Iyoba), 1750–1800, Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin, Brass; H. 16 3/4 in. (42.54 cm), Bequest of Alice K. Bache, 1977 (1977.187.36)

This is a later Benin brass commemorative head, and like its predecessor it has the similar “chicken-beaked” coral crown and coral necklaces. However, it has a thicker cast and unlike the earlier version, it has a longer neck and is covered in these necklaces up to the mouth. The facial features are also less naturalistic, with things like the eyes being emphasized. (1)

(Right) Head of a Queen Mother, Nigeria, Edo; Court of Benin, 18th-19th Century, Brass, iron; h. 20.5 inches

This head is an even later commemorative head. It still possesses the same crown and necklaces, but the style is changed even more. It has an opening in the top so that elephant tusks may be placed there. The neck is even longer and the figure possesses even more coral beaded jewelry as shown by the number of necklaces and the style of the headdress. (1)