Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Belt mask of Iyoba (Mother of the Oba) Idia

Photo: Paul Macapia

Belt mask of Iyoba (Mother of the Oba) Idia

ca. 1517 - 1550

Queen Idia’s face conveys her considerable courage and allure that has inspired centuries of respect. This icon was one of four created in her honor by her son, Oba Esigie, who led the kingdom to the height of its prosperity in the 16th century. It was worn in a ceremony each year by a succession of Obas, up until 1897. At that time, a British force took them from the Oba's bedroom in the palace and brought them back to Europe.
4 3/4 x 9 3/16 in. (12 x 23.3cm)
Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company
Provenance: Taken from a box in the Oba’s bedroom in the royal palace of Benin City by Dr. Robert Allman, Principal Medical Officer for the British Punitive Expedition, Feb. 16, 1897; [Sotheby's, London, Important African Sculpture, South American & Oceanic Art, Monday, June 27, 1960, lot no. 120, reproduced]; purchased at auction by K.J. Hewett (1919-1994), London, England; John Wise (1902-1981), New York, New York; sold to Katherine White (1929-1980), Seattle, Washington, Dec. 19, 1960
Photo: Paul Macapia
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistoryKansas City, Missouri, The Nelson Gallery and Atkins Museum, The Imagination of Primitive Man, 1962.

Cleveland, Ohio, The Cleveland Museum of Art, African Tribal Images: The Katherine White Reswick Collection, July 10 - Sept. 1, 1968 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania Museum, Oct. 10 - Dec. 1, 1968).

Los Angeles, California, African Art In Motion: Icon and Act, Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery, University of California, Jan. 20 - Mar. 17, 1974 (Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Apr. 21 - Aug. 30, 1974).

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, African Panoplies: Art for Rulers, Traders, Hunters, and Priests, Apr. 21- Aug. 14, 1988.

Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, Benin - Kings and Rituals: Court Arts from Nigeria, July 8 - Sept. 21, 2008.
Published ReferencesImportant African Sculpture, South American, Haida and Oceanic Art, June 27, 1960, Sotheby's (London, 1960): p. 32, lot no. 120, reproduced frontispiece (color) and folding plate, n.p.

Fagg, William. African Tribal Images: The Katherine White Collection. Cleveland, Ohio: The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1968; p. 141.

Mathes, Charles. Treasures of American Museums, Mallard Press, 1991; p. 3.

Selected Works, Seattle, Washington: Seattle Art Museum, 1991; p. 35

Kaplan, Flora Edouwaye S. "Images of the Queen Mother in Benin Court Art." African Arts vol. 26, no. 3 (July 1993): pp. 54-63, 86-88, reproduced p. 56, fig. 1.

Museum for Volkerkunde Wien, Vienna, Austria, Benin – Kings and Rituals: Court Arts from Nigeria, Snoeck Publishers, 2007; p. 142, reproduced fig. 3

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

Learn more about Equity at SAM