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Leopard figure Benin (N° 16768)
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. Being 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 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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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 ", the head of the leopard of the house", 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 decorated copy of lozenges representing the ocelles presents a brown patina with golden highlights.
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