African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Benin Statue

Benin court dwarf in bronze (N° 14130)

Simply dressed, the character with rounded volumes offers an imposing head with protruding cheekbones in which the sunken eyes could indicate blindness. The folded arms with clenched fists give the silhouette an idea of movement and vigour. The legs are proportionally reduced. Beautiful spotted patina, golden reflections. In African art, Benin art is described as court art because it is closely associated with the king, known as Oba.
The dwarves of the king's entourage, which appeared in the 15th century, were intended not only for diversion, but also for surveillance. They were given occult gifts. According to Fagg, these characters were also acrobats and illusionists. Their bronze figures were to garnish the altars of the ancestors.

Before the destruction of the palace of the Kingdom of Benin in 1897, the divine character of kings, the Oba , was illustrated by multiple codified works celebrating their power. War scenes glorifying them were reproduced on narrative plates, in bronze, and affixed to the walls. Sumptuous bronze altars, commemorative figures of deceased chefs, majestic felines, 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 art of cast iron with lost wax reaches its perfection by the representation of these scenes describing life in the palace. (Benin, ed. Snoeck)  

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Originex-collection anglaise
Height cm34
Width17 cm
Weight3.60 Kg
Estimated dating1ère halfxx°

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