BENIN ART, NIGERIA


 

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BENIN
Serpent Head 12

Photographs © Tim Hamill

BENIN, ART, Nigeria

Although similar to many older works, these are all 20th C. pieces and probably made to be sold.

Bronze pieces from the Benin kingdom are known the world over. Almost all their art was created to honor the king , or Oba, who has reigned, with his ancestors, from the 15th century. Styles have changed over the years. Each is still sculpted by hand, then cast in bronze by the lost wax process. Figures that do not depict the king show members of his court.

Bronze Leopards, a royal icon, were often used as royal water vessels. Water was poured from the mouth over the Oba's hands in cleansing rituals. They were kept on royal altars.

The plaques were mounted on the walls of the Oba's Palace and record the history of the Benin kingdom. Most depict the king or warrior chiefs.

Cast pieces are copper alloys, bronze (copper and tin) or brass (copper and zinc). The alloys are not always pure and pieces historically labelled "bronzes", often are not.

Old Benin pieces are rare and limited. All of ours are 20th Century pieces and were probably made to be sold.

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