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Hip ornament showing a ram

Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria
18th century
Artist Unidentified


Dimensions

Length x width: 20.3 x 13.3 cm (8 x 5 1/4 in.)

Accession Number

L-G 7.6.2012

Medium or Technique

Copper alloy

On View

Benin Kingdom Gallery (Gallery 172)

Collections

Africa and Oceania, Jewelry

Classifications

Pendants

This large rams-head ornament has a sturdy loop hidden in the cavity behind it, meant to help secure the waist wrapper of a high-ranking member of the Benin court. The artist has stylized the ram’s horns, and added a delicate border of coiled mudfish to the lower edge. Although mudfish may seem humble creatures, their ability to live dormant in dried river beds makes them a potent symbol of the Oba’s ability to live in both earthly and spiritual realms. The mudfish form small loops that would have held small rattles or bells–two remain. Imagine the sound of a richly dressed courtier approaching with this finely made ornament on his hip.

Markings

2/387/1 on back

Provenance

By 1984, Mathias Komor (dealer; d. 1984), New York; sold by Komor to Robert Owen Lehman; 2012, promised gift of Robert Owen Lehman to the MFA.

Credit Line

Robert Owen Lehman Collection