Photographs © Tim Hamill
13" long x 9.5" wide
Although similar to many older works, this is a 20th C. piece and was probably made to be sold.
Bronzes like this large snake head were supposed to be attached to a long body, hung near the entrance door of the palace. A Dutch visitor to the court of Benin published this description in 1702: "On topof the last gate is a wooden turret. like a chimney, about sixty or seventy foot high. A large copper snake is attached to its top. its head dangling downwards. This snake is so neatly cast with all its curves and everything, that I can say that this is the finest
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. Almost all Benin 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. Although similar to many older works, these are all 20th C. pieces. Each is still sculpted by hand, then cast in bronze by the lost wax process.
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