Fragments of commemorative altar head

About this object

Some objects were left unrecognisable by the fire that spread through the museum on 3 May 1941. This piece of tangled metal was once a powerful and imposing portrait bust of a Queen Mother from Benin. All that is left is the beaded headdress.

The head came to the museum in 1899 in an exchange between the Chicago Field Museum and Liverpool (now World) Museum. At that time Liverpool was building an impressive collection from West Africa. During the British punitive expedition to Benin in 1897 many hundreds of objects were looted from the city. When the objects were brought back to Europe private collectors and museums scrambled to buy the Benin objects for their collections and Liverpool also bought and exchanged Benin objects to build its collection.

In 1941 the Queen Mother Head was one of many objects on display in the Africa gallery in the basement of the museum. It is fortunate that the piece of metal was spotted by the museum’s staff as they began to assess the damage done by the fire.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
    Edo [Bini]
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Africa: Western Africa: Nigeria: Southern Nigeria: Benin City
  • Date made
    1897 before
  • Materials
    Copper Alloy
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Acquisition
    Received in exchange from the Field Colombian Museum Chicago, 1899
  • Collector
  • Place collected
    Africa: Western Africa: Nigeria: Southern Nigeria: Benin City
  • Date collected
  • Measurements
    180 mm x 155 mm x 100 mm
  • Note
    STOCKBOOK: Part of the casting of a metal cone-shaped head-dress off a tusk holder like . From Benin City, W. Africa. Received in exchange for Liverpool Museum accessions ('cast metal figure of a Bini' [Oba] & ('metal tusk-holder in the form of a human head'), from the Field Museum Chicago, USA.
Object view = Humanities
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