SPECIAL ADVISORY: The Yale University Art Gallery is open to the public with free, timed-entry tickets to its permanent-collection galleries from Friday through Sunday. Learn More and Plan Your Visit

African Art

Male Headdress

early 20th century

Wood and pigment

25 × 15 3/16 × 12 in. (63.5 × 38.5 × 30.5 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
The opulent superstructure of this helmet mask identifies it as a male character and represents a royal cap. The mask would have appeared together with several other masking characters at seasonal festivals or at funerals of important members of society. The arrowheads and the smaller human face refer to prowess and the custom of keeping slain enemies’ heads as trophies. The birds with lozenge-shaped bodies are animals of divination.
Guinea Coast, Cameroon
On view
20th century

J.J. Klejman, New York, to 1972; Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn, 1972–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Tamara Northern, Royal Art of the Cameroon (Hanover, NH: Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College, 1973), 32, fig. 14.

Warren M. Robbins and Nancy Ingram Nooter, African Art in American Collections (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989), 317, fig. 810.

Richard Barnes, “Objects of Desire,” Yale Alumni Magazine (September/October 2004): 35, ill.

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.

Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 18,72, 145, fig. 15.

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.