African art > Bronze > Leopard Benin
Bronze Benin leopard figure (N° 17388)
The palatial tribal art of Benin.
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This bronze sculpture engraved with lozenges indicating the ocelles of the coat has a black brown patina.
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 head of the chief. 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.
Before the destruction of the palace of the Kingdom of Benin in 1897, the divine character of the kings, the Oba, was illustrated by numerous 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 foundry according to the technique of cast iron with lost wax.
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