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Altar (asen)

Arts of Africa

Asen altars serve as monuments to the dead for the Fon. Placed in family shrines, they become the focus of interaction with ancestors. This asen is from Ouidah, a coastal city whose trade with Europeans (initially Portuguese) was flourishing as early as the seventeenth century. Thus, the central figure, which represents the deceased, wears a stovepipe hat, smokes a pipe, sits on a straight-backed chair, and stands beneath an umbrella—all symbols that derive their power from association with powerful European traders. This work has been attributed to Akati Akpene Kendo, a well-known artist in the service of the Fon king Glele (r. 1858–89).
MEDIUM Iron, pigment, and wood
  • Place Made: Ouidah, Benin
  • DATES late 19th century
    DIMENSIONS 50 x 12 in.  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    CREDIT LINE Frank L. Babbott Fund
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Fon. Altar (asen), late 19th century. Iron, pigment, and wood, 50 x 12 in. Brooklyn Museum, Frank L. Babbott Fund, 1990.19. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1990.19_PS2.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 1990.19_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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