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

Bronze Benin (N° 14980)

The leopard, depicting the royal power, has a central place in the culture of the benign kingdom because this animal appears in the founding myth of which King Ewuare is the hero. According to legend, he wakes up after spending a night next to a leopard and a snake without realizing it. As in other cosmogonies, animals are the manifestation or even the embodiment of supernatural forces. To be spared by these predators is therefore a sign of a divine blessing.
Before the destruction of the palace of the Kingdom of Benin in 1897, the divine character of 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 chefs, 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. This copy decorated with lozenges representing the ocelles presents a brown patina with golden reflections.  

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Originex-collection allemande
Material(s)alliage de bronze
Height cm32
Width50 cm
Weight4.60 Kg
Estimated datingmid-xx°

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