African art > Bronze, leopard, messenger, warrior, statue, pirogues > Benin leopards

Pair of Benin leopards (N° 16622)

The palatial tribal art of Benin.
Symbols of the Oba, these naturalistic zoomorphic figures, with neat details, form a majestic pair where leopards with slender bodies are depicted on alert, roaring. The tail coming back to rest on the neckline forms a graceful curve. The surface of the metal is printed with lozenges evoking ocelles. Grey-green oxidations. Slight gaps.
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 plates, in bronze, and affixed to the walls. Sumptuous bronze altars, commemorative figures of deceased chiefs, heavy bracelets, hairs and recades were produced in quantity in many workshops of smelters according to the technique of cast iron with lost wax. The killing of the king of animals associated with the legends, the leopard, was the privilege of the chief, the Oba. The feline could then serve as an offering for the worship of the chief's head. Sometimes tamed by various royal guilds, he accompanied the chief on his travels. The Oba, named " child of the house leopard", could also offer teeth or skin to commanders whose loyalty was evident. The rich benign iconography is therefore full of references to this animal.  

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Originex-collection hollandaise
EthnyBénin
Countrynigéria
Material(s)bronze
Height cm114
Width108 cm
Weight66.00 Kg
Estimated datingmid-xx°

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