Skip Navigation

Fragment of a Head

Arts of Africa

While Western artists have historically often attempted to represent a person exactly how they look, many African artists instead have created portraits based on a specific physical or personality feature of the subject.

This terracotta head, most likely depicting the oni, or king, of ancient Ife, shows that Yoruba sculpture was already highly developed a thousand years ago. Ife court art interprets the human figure with extraordinary naturalism. This head, however, is not intended to be truly representational or realistic. It shows the oni in the prime of life, with no imperfections.

Fiegnon is composed chiefly of a discarded oil jerry can. Although Fiegnon may appear to resemble a mask, Romuald Hazoumé has noted that his works are, in fact, portraits—of particular individuals or of social types. With its long braids, this work represents a Fulani man Hazoumé met fishing in the lagoon where he found the oilcan.

The striking differences in style and materials in these two portraits may also reflect a marked gap in status and power between their two subjects.
MEDIUM Terracotta
  • Place Made: Ife, Osun State
  • DATES 1100-1500
    DIMENSIONS 6 x 3 1/4 x 3 3/4 in. (15.2 x 8.3 x 9.5 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Private Collection
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
    You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
    CAPTION Yoruba. Fragment of a Head, 1100-1500. Terracotta, 6 x 3 1/4 x 3 3/4 in. (15.2 x 8.3 x 9.5 cm). Private Collection, L54.5. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, L54.5_front_version1_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE front, L54.5_front_version1_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2014
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.