The Sculptor Olowe Of Ise Is Associated With What Culture

Olowe of Ise-Sculptor to Kings

Despite the fact that African works of art have typically been identified by the name of the ethnic group that produced them or by a particular style of art, the actual artists who made them were not. It was common knowledge that their names were associated with the persons who commissioned the artworks and in many cases with the people who came to view them. Many artists were renowned for their distinct and recognisable personal styles, and their popularity often extended well beyond the confines of their own communities.

The artist, who lived and worked in the tiny town of Ise in southern Nigeria during the first quarter of this century, is widely considered to be the most prominent Yoruba artist of the twentieth century by many Western art historians.

This innovative and highly accomplished artist’s work will be included in a major show at the National Museum of African Art, which will open on March 15th.

The elongated form and meticulous details of the female figure in the ritual container, as well as the juxtaposition of geometric patterns on the door panel, demonstrate the artist’s distinct touch and extraordinary proficiency in the medium of bronze.

Walker says that “Olowe of Ise was unique among Yoruba painters and continues to be without rival.” ArtArtists’ Recommendations for Videos

180. Veranda post of enthroned king and senior wife (Opo Ogoga) – AP Art History

Olowe of Ise (died 1938).Yoruba. Ikere, Ekiti region, Nigeria.From the palace of the ogoga (king) of Ikere.Veranda Post of Enthroned King and Senior Wife (Opo Ogoga),Wood and pigment, 152.5 x 31.75 x 40.6 cm (60 x 12 1/2 x 16 in.)
Form-One of four carved wooden posts, painted with unknown pigment
Function- Veranda post, architectural, structural support for palace at Ikere
Content- Depicts king seated (focal figure)- Senior wife behind, crowning him, large scale and pose underscore her importance: participating in coronation and political advisor to king- Small figures at feet of king represent a junior wife, trickster god Esu playing the flute, and and at one point a fan bearer, now missing – Emblematic of Olowe of Ise’s style; exaggerated proportions, interrelationship between figures, and open space between them- Technical composition conveys close relationship between King and Queen
  • The line of the queen’s jaw is continued by the tail of the bird. It continues in the king’s mouth and is duplicated in his arms
  • The diagonal line of his breasts continues throughout his body. Decorative bead patterns on the queen’s bracelet are replicated in the King’s crown.
Context- Influential style in Yoruba culture for centuries- Olowe considered by many the best Yoruba carver ever, died in 1938 – Most important of the four veranda posts commissioned, focal point of entry

Olowe of Ise, Veranda Post of Enthroned King and Senior Wife – Smarthistory

Ise Olowe, Veranda Post of Enthroned King and Senior Wife, early twentieth-century wood and pigment (Image courtesy of Dr. Delinda Collier, Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0, Art Institute of Chicago) This spectacular piece was commissioned for a primary doorway, which was originally one of a suite of five veranda pillars, in the manner of sculpture in Medieval Europe, which was typically constructed to decorate buildings. In its original form, this masterpiece by the famed Yoruba artist Olowe of Ise was more than five feet tall and was made entirely by hand from a single large piece of high-density hardwood timber.

Throughout history and space, depictions of rulers and their privileged power of earthly and divine authority have brought together the numerous world art traditions.

Detail of the Olowe of Ise, Veranda Post of the Enthroned King and Senior Wife, by Olowe of Ise. (Image courtesy of Dr. Delinda Collier, Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0, Art Institute of Chicago)

Master carver

Similar to the systems of medieval European guilds of craftsmen, Yoruba artistic traditions were preserved in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by artists working in specialized carving centers spread throughout the southwest region of Nigeria, much like the systems of Medieval European guilds of craftsmen. “Master carver” denoted a person who had learned the skills through apprenticeship and had progressed from apprentice to master within a carving center or complex that had been formed locally.

The work of one renowned master carver, Olwe of Ise, in the early twentieth century led to his being an internationally known artist for his virtuosity of invention and design, which he developed via the completion of a number of significant and important royal contracts.

Detail of the Olowe of Ise, Veranda Post of the Enthroned King and Senior Wife, by Olowe of Ise (photo: Dr.

Signature Style

It is the range of components and details that Olowe has included into his own style, and which can be found in many of his published works, that contribute to his extremely distinctive and unique style. No other Yoruba carver has demonstrated such incredible ability to extricate the figures from the tough hardwood as he does. A demonstration of his virtuosity may be found in the delicate balancing of the completely three-dimensional figures in a tiered composition, each of which is arranged in a variety of attitudes on a single platform.

  1. The heads, which are placed on greatly lengthened and slightly forward-bending necks, protrude at a diagonal angle, forming a distinct line from their squared shoulders down to their squared shoulders.
  2. Yoruba traditional philosophy and religion is frequently expressed in hieratic proportions, which are used to illustrate its meaning.
  3. The presence of the sitting king in the middle of the pillar, on the other hand, provides a counterbalance.
  4. His feet are not permitted to come into contact with the ground, as a sign of his transcendent status.
  5. He is crowned with a conical beaded crown, which symbolizes the legitimacy of his rule.
  6. Detail of the Olowe of Ise, Veranda Post of the Enthroned King and Senior Wife, by Olowe of Ise (photo: Dr.
  7. For people who follow traditional Yoruba religious beliefs, wearing a crown is an important symbol of the authority of a sanctified rule, as it signifies the transformation of the person who wears it into a conduit to the spiritual, ancestral realm.

The first is a female who kneels in a gesture of humility and reverence; the second is a standing court messenger, identified by his half-shaved head and playing the flute, announcing the presence of the king; and the third is now missing, standing while holding a large circular fan, emblem of royalty and Osun, the river deity.

  1. Delinda Collier, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0,Art Institute of Chicago) Detail of the Olowe of Ise, Veranda Post of the Enthroned King and Senior Wife, by Olowe of Ise (photo: Dr.
  2. A bird perched atop his beaded crown, representing transformative qualities and the protection of ancestral mothers, is depicted with an extended beak that reaches down to touch the very center of the beaded crown’s center.
  3. It was historically customary practice in the Ekiti region to file the front teeth as a show of beauty and social status, and she exemplifies this tradition.
  4. Olowe has imitated the queen’s dramatic scarification patterns, which are linked with her community and high social standing, on the back of her neck and shoulders.
  5. Jeweled collars worn by the king and queen reflect the shape of their squared shoulders, and additional beaded collars are featured, worn by those who have earned the right to be considered a part of the royal household, as well.
  6. Colors have faded over time as a result of exposure to the elements, which is most likely why they were originally so bright and noticeable.
  7. The posts were designed by Olowe and built by Olowe.

While two figural posts flanking a core geometric shape, two others pointing outward depict a senior mother giving her twins to their father and a Royal Equestrian, respectively.

Detail of the Olowe of Ise, Veranda Post of the Enthroned King and Senior Wife, by Olowe of Ise (photo: Dr.

A new posture for the enthroned monarch and his senior wife, who are now facing outward toward visiting guests.

Upon closer inspection, all three appear to be structural supports.

(Photos by William Flagg from Pemberton, John.) Olowe of Ise, Veranda Posts in situ, Inner courtyard, palace of the ogoga, monarch of Ikere (from Pemberton, John.

“Yoruba Sacred Kings: Art and Rituals.” “Yoruba Sacred Kings: Art and Rituals.” 97-174 in Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, volume 15, number 2, 1989.

Global Connections

During the early twentieth century, the southwest Nigerian kingdom of Olowe of Ise was thriving, coinciding with the period when early Modernism was blossoming in the avant-garde circles of Paris studios and galleries. There was an exhibition of African art on display in Paris at the Museum of Ethnography du Trocadéro, which was brought there by scientific expeditions and colonial conquest in the late nineteenth century. “King of Kings,” by Constantin Brancusi, created in 1938 in wood with dimensions of 300.7 x 48.3 x 46 cm (photo:V, CC BY-NC 2.0) As the painting King of Kings indicates, Constantin Brancusi would have been influenced by works from francophone colonies.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was designed by David Adjaye Associates.

The multi-figural veranda pillar, which depicts a prominent equestrian commander, is on long-term loan from the Museum of Five Continents in Munich, Germany, and has been put on the fourth floor of the building.

(Photo courtesy of C-Monster, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Additional resources

This piece is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. Walker, R.A., Olowe of Ise: A Yoruba Sculptor to Kings, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1998. Walker, R.A., Olowe of Ise: A Yoruba Sculptor to Kings, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1998. The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art has an Olowe of Ise on display. More information on Olowe of Ise may be found here.

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