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Asen Altar

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).
CULTURE Fon
MEDIUM Iron with traces of polychromy, wood
  • Place Made: Ouidah
  • DATES late 19th century
    DIMENSIONS 50 x 12 in.  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 1990.19
    CREDIT LINE Frank L. Babbott Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION 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)
    IMAGE overall, 1990.19_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
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