BENIN HIP ORNAMENT HEAD, CAST, 7" (9" with base), Nigeria $62

The extraordinary bronzes of the Benin kingdom in what is now Nigeria exhibit a virtuosity and sophistication of style that has astonished the Western world since they were visited in the 15th Century. Their work was brought to Europe following a punitive expedition by the British in 1897, causing a great sensation. The people of Benin, called Bini, are descended from the Ife, also known for their remarkable bronzes.

This head of a king is from the 17th C., the classical or great period of Benin, when the bronzes stressed monumentality and effective representation of the monarch; solemn and unemotional, wide open eyes and tattoo scars on the forehead. The wide collar of coral beads is beautifully balanced by the geometric representation of the headdress, with a simplicity and symmetry that shows the true artistry of this remarkable people.

The original bronze is in the collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York.