Yoruba Lead Onile Sculpture of a Seated Man - PF.4711
Origin: Southwestern Nigeria
Circa: 16 th Century AD to 18 th Century AD
Dimensions: 10.25" (26.0cm) high x 3" (7.6cm) wide
Collection: African
Style: Yoruba
Medium: Lead


At the founding of a settlement and the establishment of an Osugbo lodge, freestanding lead or brass figures of a male and female were cast, symbolizing the original progenitors. This male is made of lead and is an early example of an Onile or 'owner-of-the-house'. It is the prototype Yoruba ancestor figure with bulging eyes and curvilinear cheeks. Marks of honor are seen in the ritual scarification on cheeks, a handsome conical headdress and necklace. Hands over the stomach and basic posture are typical of such statues; and when seated on a conical mound is associated with oath taking. Ancestral figures were considered to contain the actual living essence of the deceased, who would sit in judgment and watch over the affairs of their people. The thick patina is the result of offerings being spread upon it over countless years. This male's penetrating gaze seems to take everything in, seeing right into a person's heart. He is a guardian from beyond, wakeful and watching for eternity. - (PF.4711)



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