African Art
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Mask Representing a Maiden Spirit

early to mid-20th century

Wood and pigment

22 7/16 x 9 1/2 x 13 7/16 in. (57 x 24.1 x 34.2 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
The Igbo praise youthful female beauty. Masks like this one, distinguished by intricate hair crests, slender noses, and white faces with black markings, glorify female beauty and connect it to the power of ancestors. The Igbo associate the white coloration of the mask with ancestral spirits. The ornate hairstyle exhibits the virtuosity of the carver rather than depicting a real hairstyle. While young men in their late teens and early twenties wear the docile, female masks, older, middle-aged men wear the masculine, more aggressive types.
20th century
Made in Guinea Coast, Nigeria
On view

Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Sotheby’s, London, Tribal Art, sale cat. (June 24, 1985), lot 22, ill.

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

Frederick John Lamp, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 232, 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.