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A Bronze sculpture of the Idia Queen

A Bronze sculpture of the Idia Queen

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This Bronze sculpture of the Idia Queen is a commemorative bronze head in the style of Benin that probably represents Queen Idia, who was a powerful monarch during the early sixteenth century at the Benin court. Oxidised Iron inlays in the eyes and on the forehead. Discoloration in the patina on the left side of the head, which probably came about because the sculpture was lying on its left side on the ground for a long time. On the right side there is a fine, incomplete crack that extends over the chin and lower jaw to the pearl jewellery. a small hole on the top of the pearl-hood.

The piled coral headdress is an important attribute of the so-called Queen Mother. The name supposedly goes back to Oba Esigie, who ruled until 1550. He is said to have given his mother Idia the title Iyoba (Queen Mother) out of gratitude and respect and introduced this style of representation. Since Esigie, any Oba could have given this official title to the mother three years after h is enthronement.

As Iyoba, she was the only woman to hold one of the highest offices in Benin and could be consulted by her son - the Oba - on all state affairs.
 This meant a serious change in that when the Oba assumed office, he usually never saw his own mother again. After her death, the Oba dedicated a separate altar to her for annual sacrifices. He erected a shrine with a corresponding memorial head either in the royal palace or in the Iyoba residence in Uselu.
"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 Berlin. 

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." Source:

* This is not the fifth Idia bronze. There are in reality probably much more. A couple of years ago, we found also another, published at the end of this photo sequence and also at least 8 other similar sculptures of this Queen mother.


Photo Felix von Luschan, Benin queen, Die Altertümer von Benin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, at the end of the phoesequence together with the exemplare we collected a couple of years ago and the Berlin exemplare, probably the best of all.

Height: 40 cm
Weight: 2,8 kg

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