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Title: Commemorative Head
Date: 15th–18th century
Artist: Unidentified Edo artist
Locale: Court of Benin
Medium: bronze, iron
Dimensions:
7 11/16 x 7 1/8 x 6 7/8 in. (19.5 x 18.1 x 17.5 cm)
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object Number: 12:1936
Place associated: Benin City, Edo state, Nigeria
Current Location: On View, Gallery 102
Notes:
In 1936, this sculpture was the first example of sub-Saharan
African art to enter the Saint Louis Art Museum’s collection.
This work’s high degree of naturalism and fine casting captivated Museum leaders and visitors at a time when few American art museums collected art from sub-Saharan Africa. This bronze had previously been shown in a landmark traveling exhibition of African art organized by the Museum of Modern Art in 1935.

Bronze heads, such as this example, were placed on palace
shrines to honor a Benin king’s royal predecessor and ancestors.
Heads in this style, with minimal headdress, have also been
interpreted as “trophy heads,” said to represent the head of an
important defeated enemy to commemorate the victory.

Provenance
by 1932 -
Charles Ratton, Paris, France [1]

by 1934 - 1936
Louis Carré (1879-1977), Paris, France [2]

1936 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Louis Carré through agent M. Knoedler & Co., Inc. [3]


Notes:
[1] An image of this object is included in an article titled "Les bronzes du Bénin" by Charles Ratton in a 1932 issue of Cahiers d'Art (no. 3-5). The object is cited as belonging to the collection of Charles Ratton.

[2] In a letter dated November 23, 1934 from Louis Carré to the City Art Museum, Carré states his Benin collection of bronzes is the “finest collection ever known.” Carré mentioned his plans to have an exhibition in the US and “dispose of certain pieces.” Carré's collection was exhibited at M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., from November 25 to December 14, 1935 ["Bronzes and Ivories from the Old Kingdom of Benin: Exhibition from November 25 to December 14, 1935 : At the Galleries of M. Knoedler and Company ... New York City" [SLAM document files]; see also "Carré Shows Benin Bronzes and Ivories at Knoedler's" in The Art News dated November 30, 1935 [SLAM document files]. Letters between Meyric Rogers, director of the City Art Museum, and Charles Henschel of M. Knoedler & Co. Inc. dated March 6, March 9, March 12, and April 3, 1936, identify Louis Carré's ownership of the object [SLAM document files].

[3] In a letter dated March 6, 1936 from Rogers to Henschel, Rogers asks Henschel to contact Carré regarding this object. A letter dated March 12, 1936 from H. Jansen of M. Knoedler & Co., Inc. to Rogers contains a cable sent to M. Knoedler & Co. from Carré confirming a reduction in price. Additional correspondence between Rogers and Henschel document the role of M. Knoedler & Co. as agent in the purchase. An invoice dated April 6, 1936 from M. Knoedler & Co., Inc. to the City Art Museum documents the purchase of this object, listed as "Benin Bronze...Portrait of a Youth" [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control of the City Art Museum, March 5, 1936.

Exhibition History
Title: African Highlights (2008)
Date: July 2008 - October 2009
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Sculpture from the Kingdom of Benin West Africa
Date: April 17 – April 20, 1937
Venue: Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums
Title: Exhibition of African Art
Date: February 20 – March 20, 1951
Venue: Scripps College Art Galleries
Title: Splendor of Soul, Beauty of Form: Royal and Ritual Art of Africa
Date: September 16, 2001 - February 17, 2002
Venue: Meadows Museum
Title: Art of the African Negro
Date: January 24 – March 3, 1945
Venue: Denver Art Museum
Title: African Negro Art
Date: Tuesday, March 19, 1935 - Sunday, May 19, 1935
Venue: Museum of Modern Art, New York
Title: Art Walk: A Moving Experience
Date: November 14, 1991 - January 5, 1992
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Benin
Date: September 21 – November 24, 1968
Venue: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Title: Embroidered Textiles from Greece and the Aegean, Sculpture from West and Central Africa, and Sculpture and Paintings of South and Southeast Asia
Date: July 10, 1969 – September 28, 1969
Venue: City Art Museum of Saint Louis
Title: Bronzes and Ivories from the Old Kingdom
Date: November 25 – December 14, 1935
Venue: M. Knoedler & Co., Inc.
Title: African Highlights (2009)
Date: Begin November 2009
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: The Art of Benin
Date: October – December, 1962
Venue: Chicago Museum of Natural History
Title: Exposition de Bronzes et Ivoires du Royaume de Benin
Date: June 15 – July 15, 1932
Venue: Palais du Trocadéro
Title: People at the Art Museum
Date: July 7- September 9, 2001
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Royal Benin
Date: January 15 – February 24, 1980
Venue: Indiana University Art Museum
Publication History
Title: The Saint Louis Art Museum Handbook of the Collections
Editor: Mary Ann Steiner
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Handbook of the Collections: The City Art Museum of Saint Louis
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: West African Sculpture: Sacred Space, Spirit and Power
Periodical Title: The Saint Louis Art Museum Bulletin
Author: John W. Nunley
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: New African Galleries Focus on Art and Life
Periodical Title: Saint Louis Art Museum Magazine
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: African Art in American Collections
Author: Warren M. Robbins
Author: Robert H. Simmons
Title: The St. Louis Art Museum: Handbook of the Collections
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: See for Yourself: Highlights of the Collection
Periodical Title: A Gallery Guide for The Saint Louis Art Museum
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Art Walk: A Moving Experience
Year Published: 1992
Title: The Common Path: Possible Futures for Art and Anthropology Museums
Periodical Title: RES
Year Published: 2007
Title: Handbook of the Collections: The City Art Museum of Saint Louis
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Bronze Head of a Youth, Benin, Nigeria 1360 - 1500 A.D.
Periodical Title: Bulletin of the City Art Museum of Saint Louis
Edition: January
Year Published: 1937
Title: Benin
Year Published: 1968
Title: African Negro Art
Year Published: 1935
Title: The Art of Benin - A Catalogue of an Exhibition of the A.W.F. Fuller and Chicago Natural History Museum
Author: Philip J.C. Dark
Title: Bronzes and Ivories from the Old Kingdom of Benin
Year Published: 1935
Title: Loans from the Permanent Collection: For the Fiscal Year 1963-1964
Periodical Title: Bulletin of the City Art Museum of St. Louis
Edition: Annual Report 1963-1964
Year Published: 1964
Title: Saint Louis Art Museum: Handbook of the Collection
Editor: Mary Ann Steiner
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Carré Shows Benin Bronzes and Ivories at Knoedler's
Periodical Title: Art News
Edition: November 30
Year Published: 1935
Title: Exposition de Bronzes et Ivoires
Year Published: 1932
Title: The Negro in Art: A Pictorial Record of the Negro Artist and of the Negro Theme in Art
Year Published: 1971
Title: Les Bronzes du Bénin
Periodical Title: Cahiers d'Art
Author: Charles Ratton
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