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African Art

Janus Plaque

18th–19th century


12 13/16 × 10 1/16 in. (32.5 × 25.5 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
This plaque representing a human face was originally affixed to a wooden headdress with a second face on the back, creating a Janus, or double-headed, image. The inverted crescents on the forehead connect it to the Òsugbó association and symbolize earthworms, which are venerated by the Òsugbó as the earth’s most essential creatures.
Guinea Coast, Nigeria
On view
Ìjèbú Yorùbá
18th–19th century

G.I. Jones, Nigeria. Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York. February 11, 1977; Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn, 1977–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Wilson P. Foss, Nigerian Splendor: A Checklist of the Exhibition, exh. cat. (Hanover, N.H.: Dartmouth College, 1980), no. 54, ill.

Dennis Duerden, African Art: An Introduction (London: Hamyln, 1974), 34, ill.

Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, Fine African, Oceanic, and Pre-Columbian Art, sale cat. (February 11, 1977), lot 165, ill.

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

Henry John Drewal and John Pemberton III, Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought (New York: Museum for African Art, 1989), fig. 43.

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), 167, ill.

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.