African art > Bronze, leopard, messenger, warrior, statue, pirogues > Benin bronze
Benin bronze (N° 22994)
Before the destruction of the palace of the kingdom of Benin in 1897, the divine character of the kings, the Oba, was illustrated by multiple works celebrating their power. War scenes were reproduced on narrative plaques, in bronze, and affixed to the walls. Sumptuous bronze altars, commemorative figures of deceased chiefs, heavy bracelets, anklets and recades were produced in quantity in many foundry workshops using the lost wax casting technique.
The killing of the king of animals associated with legends, the leopard, was the privilege of the chief, the Oba. The feline could then serve as an offering for the cult of the chief's head. Sometimes tamed by various royal guilds, it accompanied the leader on his travels. The Oba, named "child of the leopard of the house", could also offer the teeth or the skin to commanders whose loyalty was manifest. The rich Benin iconography is therefore full of references to this animal. This example of the benign type decorated with pellets representing the ocelli has a black patina with greenish encrustations.
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