African art > African bronze > Head Benin
Bronze Benin commemorative head (N° 14069)
Wearing a seaily that consisted of coral beads, from which laterally protrude from fins, this head with a circular border represents a ruler (oba) of Benin. Symbol of wealth, this coral reserved for kings and digesters of the palace had to be regularly anointed with the blood of the victims in order to acquire a magical power. The lateral appendages named ikekeze protrude from the crown. Golden beige patina.
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Famous in benign art, altar heads, symbols of wisdom and receptacles of energy, were cast using the technique of lost wax like other bronzes. Benin art is described as a court art because it is closely associated with the king, known as oba. The tradition of Ifè's bronze classroom objects dates back to the 14th century.
The many bronze heads and statues created by the artists of Benin were reserved for the exclusive use of the inhabitants of the royal palace and, more often than not, placed on altars consecrated by each new oba, king of the ethnic group. These rectangular altars were surmounted by heads, statues, carved ivory tusks, bells and sticks. The commemorated Oba was subject to offerings in order to come into contact with his spirit. Another tradition also evokes the casting by the founders of the heads of defeated kings who had been beheaded. The effigy of the most valiant of them was sent as a warning to their successor. These heads are distinguished by their frontal scarifications characteristic of the neighbouring peoples of the Edo. (Source: "Benin", Armand Duchâteau)
The benign bronzes are arguably among the most famous of Black African tribal art. In fact, they were in large quantities taken over by Western museums, especially from the beginning of the 20th century. This period is not trivial because at that time, the British government was putting pressure on the oba for economic reasons. In this context, and following the assassination of a young British consul and his delegation, a punitive expedition led by the admiral of the Royal Navy, Sir Harry Rawson, plundered, massacred and burned down the city of Benin. The royal treasure of the oba, consisting of about 2500 coins, was repatriated to Europe and scattered.
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|Origin||Collection privée belge|
|Estimated dating||bronze tardif|
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