Arts of Africa
On View: African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
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).
Iron with traces of polychromy, wood
late 19th century
Frank L. Babbott Fund
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Fon. Asen Altar, late 19th century. Iron with traces of polychromy, wood, 50 x 12 in. Brooklyn Museum, Frank L. Babbott Fund, 1990.19. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1990.19_PS2.jpg)
overall, 1990.19_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
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