Gelede headdress

late 19th century
Artist Master of Anago (Late 19th century)

Object Place: Republic of Benin


41.91 cm (16 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, pigment

On View

Richard B. Carter Gallery (Gallery 171)


Africa and Oceania



The Gelede society honors the creative and potentially destructive powers of women, especially elderly women (referred to as “our mothers” and identified with sorcery). At annual celebrations marked by elaborate dance performances, paired male and female masks worn by men appear in rich textile costumes complete with wooden breasts. This mask, with delicate incising but no paint, presents an aesthetic contrast between the sharp-bladed headpiece and beard, and the round-featured, serene face. It is one of several distinctive pieces credited to an unnamed late-nineteenth century carver in the Anago area of what is now the Republic of Benin, near the Nigerial border.


Bryce Holcombe (d. 1983), New York [see note 1]; October, 1985, sold by Pace Primitive and Ancient Art, New York, to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1991, gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 22, 1992)

[1] Director of Pace Primitive and Ancient Art. This object was first exhibited at Pace in 1982.

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel