Galerie Peter Herrmann

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Ancient Art from Africa
Head Ife

Thermoluminescence - Expertise

Expertise 2022


Ife-Style, Nigeria
appr. 1370
31 cm
Edited since Feb. 2015

When the first Ife head was found by Leo Frobenius in 1910, the surprise at the quality and execution was so great that the work was attributed not to Africans but to a Greek colony. Yet the physiognomy and symbolism obviously speak for an African origin.

The physiognomy of this Ife head clearly shows the high standards of realism of the foundry workshops. This is particularly evident in the ears, but also in the eyes and the softly modelled nose. The ears are not only indicated, as in many Benin heads, but fully sculpted. Only at the neck are they punched out for attachment to a wooden hull.

The high quality of Ife heads long led to the assumption that the origins of the bronze casting tradition in West Africa were to be found in Ife. However, as the ethnologist Stefan Eisenhofer conclusively proves in some of his articles, this theory of origin is by no means proven. The tradition could just as well have originated in Benin, because in contrast to the area around Ife, old workshops in Benin can be traced back about 1000 years.

Typical holes at the hairline, mouth and cheeks. Remains of reddish brown colouring. Excavation patina. Traces of deformation and light impact. The elegance in the overall appearance makes this object a rare top piece.

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