Photographs © Tim Hamill
BENIN, OBJECT 1, 44.5", $700, Nigeria
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.
The varied objects on this page include two altar posts, each of which is fitted in the middle of two halves. There are three pieces that were placed on ancestral altars and two ceremonial swords, as seen held by the Oba on many figures and plaques. The cocks were placed on altars honoring past queen mothers.
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