Galerie Peter Herrmann

zu Chamba
Ancient Art from Africa - Benin & Ife
Commemorative Head Ife Style

Tête dite de l'Oni Obalufon   L'art de Ife est incontestablement un art royal

Thermoluminescence - Expertise



Paul Garn Collection, Dresden
Purchased in the 1920's
Ife-Style, Nigeria
appr. 1430
32 cm


When the first Ife head was discovered by Leo Frobenius in 1910, so great was the surprise at its quality and workmanship that though its physiognomy and imagery very clearly indicated an African origin, it was nonetheless attributed to a Greek colony. At the latest since Willett’s publications, however, nobody doubts the African origins.

The physiognomy of this Ife head demonstrates the foundries’ high commitment to realism. This is clear in the eyes, the softly modelled nose and especially the ears, which are no longer only suggested, as in many Benin heads, but fully sculpturally expressed. The otherwise typical holes at the mouth and cheeks are absent, but there are holes in the neck for mounting on a wooden torso.

There are various theories about the pattern of narrow lines on the face of this very delicately molded head with realistic facial features. Some see the lines as scarification; others think they represent a veil attached to the crown.

For a long time, the high quality of the Ife heads led many to believe that the origins of the bronze casting tradition in West Africa could be found in Ife. But as ethnologist Stefan Eisenhofer has conclusively shown in several articles, this origins theory is far from proven. The tradition could just as well come from Benin – unlike in the area around Ife, old workshops in Benin can be traced back some 1,000 years.

Finest provenance, incredible elegance and an excellent condition make this an absolutely top piece, unparalleled around the world. Its attributes put it on the same level as the best Ife heads in the British Museum.

Frank WILLETT: Ife. Metropole afrikanischer Kunst. Bergisch Gladbach 1967, S. 36.
Barbara PLANKENSTEINER (Hg.): Benin. Könige und Rituale. Höfische Kunst aus Nigeria. Wien 2007, S. 272.
Stefan Eisenhofer: Ife und die Chronologie der Benin-Bronzen

Similar objects :  
Federal Department of Antiquities, Lagos, Nigeria
Elsy LEUZINGER: Die Kunst von Schwarz-Afrika, Recklinghausen, 1972, S. 151
Ife Museum für Ife-Altertüme  
Schätze aus Alt-Nigeria. Ministerium für Kultur, Berin (Ost) 1985, S. 116.

Frank WILLETT: Ife. Metropole afrikanischer Kunst, Bergisch Gladbach 1967, S. 37.
British Museum, London  
William B. FAGG: Bildwerke aus Nigeria, München 1963, S. 39.

Till Förster: Kunst in Afrika, Köln 1988, S. 2.
Ife Museum für Ife-Altertümer (Kopie)  
Ekpo EYO, Frank Willett: Kunstschätze aus Alt-Nigeria, Mainz 1983, S. 21.
Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim (Ausstellung, 28. Mai bis 27. August 2000)  
Ife, Akan und Benin. Westafrikanische Kunst aus 2000 Jahren, Pforzheim 2000, S. 43.

Paul Garn Collection