African Art
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Artist: Fon Master of the Long-Horned Ram

Ancestral Asen

early 20th century

Iron, cloth, and encrustation

75 × 20 × 20 in. (190.5 × 50.8 × 50.8 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
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.
Ouidah, Republic of Benin
On view
20th century
Tools and Equipment

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


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

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

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), 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.