Headdress in the Form of a Female Head
late 19thearly 20th century
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
This mask is carved in wood in the form of a life-size human head, but its realism is heightened by a covering of antelope skin. The fresh skin was wrapped around the carving and left to dry until tight. Notched wooden teeth reflect the custom of tooth filing. The spiraling forms represent an elaborate hairstyle worn by women before the mid-twentieth century. The carved head was worn on top of a performer's head, his own head and body covered with a cloth costume. The performance occurred in private male military ceremonies celebrating the conquest of enemies, and in a sense conflated sexual conquest with victory in battle.
This object is on view at the gallery.
Frederick John Lamp, "Charles Benenson and His Legacy of African Art to Yale," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2004): 26, ill.
"Acquisitions, July 1, 2005June 30, 2006," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.
Frederick John Lamp, "Hot Space, Cool Space: The Reinstallation of the African Art Collection in the Louis Kahn Building at Yale University," African Arts 40 (Summer 2007): 4647, fig. 19.
Frederick John Lamp, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), front and back cover,79, 115, fig. 23.
Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery's complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.