BENIN HEAD 5, NIGERIA

Photographs © Tim Hamill

BENIN, WOOD KING'S HEAD 5, 17", $1500, SOLD

Wood heads were rare, and placed on the royal altars. This one is probably early 20th C.

The extraordinary bronzes of the Benin kingdom in what is now Nigeria exhibit a virtuosity and sophistication of style that has astonished the Western world since they were visited in the 15th Century. Their work was brought to Europe following a punitive expedition by the British in 1897, causing a great sensation. The people of Benin, called Bini, are descended from the Ife, also known for their remarkable bronzes. Almost all Benin art was created to honor the king , or Oba, who has reigned, with his ancestors, from the 15th century. Styles have changed over the years. Although similar to many older works, these are all 20th C. pieces. Each is still sculpted by hand, then cast in bronze by the lost wax process. Heads that do not depict the king show members of his court or the Queen.

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