Bronze Head of Queen Idia
The Bronze Head of Queen Idia is a commemorative bronze head from mediaeval Benin that probably represents Queen Idia, who was a powerful monarch during the early sixteenth century at the Benin court. Four cast bronze heads of the queen are known and are currently in the collections of the British Museum, the World Museum in Liverpool, the Nigerian National Museum in Lagos and the Ethnological Museum of Berlin.
|Bronze Head of Queen Idia|
|Size||41 cm high|
|Created||Sixteenth century AD|
|Present location||British Museum, London|
The bronze head was made using the lost wax casting technique in the early sixteenth century. It is a very realistic representation of a young woman from the Benin court, who wears a high pointed ukpe-okhue crown of lattice-shaped red coral beads. The eyes and two bands between them are inset with iron. Above each eyebrow are engraved four cicatrices. The sophisticated technique and design of the four heads suggest that they were made in the early sixteenth century, when Queen Idia, mother of Oba Esigie, ruled the Benin court.
Queen Idia played an instrumental role in her son's successful military campaigns against neighbouring tribes and factions. After her death, Oba Esigie ordered dedicatory heads of the queen to be made, to be placed in front of altars or in the Queen Mother's palace. The heads were designed to honour her military achievements and ceremonial power.
- Mack, John (ed.) Africa, Arts and Cultures. London, 2005.
- Barley, Nigel. The Art of Benin. London: The British Museum Press, 2010.
- Ben-Amos, P. Girshick. The Art of Benin. London: The British Museum Press, 1995.