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African Art
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: Maku of Erin, died 1915

Male Equestrian Figure

late 19th–early 20th century

Wood, beads, string, and metal

32 × 7 1/16 × 9 13/16 in. (81.28 × 18 × 25 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
In Yoruba art, the equestrian image relates to the history of the Oyo Kingdom, which was invaded by the Nupe in about the mid-sixteenth century. In the late sixteenth century the Oyo, with the use of cavalry, reconquered the land and later expanded the kingdom. The equestrian became an image of power, human mastery over nature, and success in war and hunting. The horse rider stands in juxtaposition with another prominent theme in Yoruba art, the woman and child. Together, these themes refer to the dual basis of Yoruba society: the covert power of women to give birth and the overt physical power of men to build and protect society.
Guinea Coast, Nigeria
On view
19th–20th century

Willem E. Geyskens, Diest, Belgium, acquired in Nigeria by late 1960's. Lucien Van de Velde, Antwerp, Belgium, by ca. 1970. Merton Simpson, to February 12, 1975; Charles B. Benenson Collection, donated to Yale University Art Gallery in 2004


Henry John Drewal and John Pemberton III, Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought (New York: Museum for African Art, 1989), 157, fig. 173.

“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), 187, 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.