Olowe of Ise ( Nigerian, 1875 - 1938 )
- Yoruba peoples
- before 1938
This mirror case features a pair of standing male and female figures wearing waist beads, each holding the other’s shoulder with their arms crossed behind their backs. The borders and handle of the case are decorated with incised geometric designs.
When European mirrors were introduced into Nigeria in the late 19th century, they were considered luxury goods reserved for the royals. Eventually, mirrors became more accessible but remained expensive trade items that were valued as prestigious wedding presents. The need for mirror frames or cases resulted in a new art form.
This mirror frame is attributed to Olowe of Ise, a court artist recognized as an innovative sculptor in his own time. He may have carved it for a royal bride, as it is larger than average. The sliding panel protecting the precious glass is unusual for this type of object and appears to be his invention.
Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.