African Art
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: Fon Master of the Long-Horned Ram

Ancestral Asen

early 20th century

Iron, cloth, and encrustation

75 x 20 x 20 in. (190.5 x 50.8 x 50.8 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
2006.51.482
Asen are portable altars with elaborate figural tableaux honoring the ancestors of a family. They serve as a conduit for interactions between the visible world of the living and the invisible realm of the spirits. Groups of asen are placed in a prayer room, where they are offered sacrifices and consulted for advice on important questions. The scenes shown on the platforms could relate to proverbs or praise poems. The figural group in this asen probably shows the head of a lineage, indicated by an elaborate chair, a top hat, and an umbrella–all attributes of authority. On the table are bottles of imported alcohol, further evidence of his high status.
Culture: 
Fon
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Tools and Equipment
Geography: 
Made in Ouidah, Republic of Benin
Status: 
On view*
Provenance: 

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

Bibliography: 

Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2004): ill. cover.

“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), 279, 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.