Lot 89
  • 89

Ekoi/Ejagham Janiform Headcrest, Nigeria

50,000 - 70,000 USD
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  • Wood, waterbuck antelope horns (Kobus ellipsiprumnus), red duicker skin
  • Height: 22 in (56 cm)


Carlo Monzino, Lugano
Private Collection, acquired from the above
Sotheby's, New York, May 19, 2001, lot 160, consigned by the above
American Private Collection, acquired at the above auction


The Center for African Art, New York, African Aesthetics: the Carlo Monzino Collection, May 7 - September 7, 1986


Mario Carrieri, Fotografie. Scultura africana, Milan, 1981, cat. no. 26
Susan M. Vogel, African Aesthetics: the Carlo Monzino Collection, New York, 1986, pp. 104-106, cat. no. 87
Peter Stepan, World Art: Africa, Munich, 2001, p. 82
Peter Stepan, Spirits Speak: a Celebration of African Masks, Munich, 2005, p. 170, cat no. 63
Peter Stepan, Spirits Speak: African Masks, Munich, 2006, p. 29
Ekpo Eyo, Masterpieces of Nigerian Art, Abuja, 2008, p. 214, cat. no. 159
Herbert M. Cole & Dierk Dierking, ed., Invention and Tradition: The Art of Southeastern Nigeria, Munich, 2012, p. 80 & p. 194, pl. 104

Catalogue Note

Headdresses and masks made by groups in the Cross River region of southeastern Nigeria and western Cameroon belonged to intra-generational associations of men and, sometimes, women, who were hunters, warriors, or who otherwise shared a skill or accomplishment. Naturalistic in form and deeply symbolic, these headdresses were just one part of a full-body costume that dancers wore during important ceremonies such as funerals and initiations. The rest of the costume consisted of a fabric robe that covered the dancer's body and at times, even his face.

This headdress was attached to the top of the wearer's head by its basketry base. Attached to this base is a cylindrical neck that supports two nearly identical female faces, which contain painted symbols from nsibidi, the ideographic language shared by several groups in the Cross River region. Each figure is also adorned with two antelope horns, which stick out from the coiffure, distinguished by its distinct color. The headdress was initially carved from a single block of wood, after which it is covered with the hide of an antelope and decorated with paint. According to Susan Vogel, 'Janus images […] are especially common in the Cross River area. They allude to the ability of masks to see hidden truths in this world and into the world beyond. They also combine male and female, whose complementary qualities, if merged, could attain perfection.' (Vogel, African Aesthetics, 1986, p. 106).

Vogel notes that 'this harmonious headdress is almost identical to one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, [inv. no. 1979.206.299] that is surely by the same hand [...]' (ibid., pp. 105-106).