Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia, painting by an unknown artist

AD 1940s
From Ethiopia

Emperor Menelik II is one of Ethiopia’s most famous emperors. He was crowned in 1889 and ruled until his death in 1913.

During his reign he unified and centralised Ethiopian government, founding a new, permanent capital, which he named Addis Abeba, or New Flower. Menelik founded the first modern bank and postal system in Ethiopia and introduced electricity to the capital as well as the telephone and first motor car. Addis Abeba is still Ethiopia’s capital today and is an important centre for African politics and commerce.

Emperor Menelik is best known for his defeat of a large Italian army at the Battle of Adwa on 2 March 1896. This victory was widely reported and was the source of pride and inspiration for Africans around the world.

This painting shows the Emperor in military dress. He wears a cloak made of red velvet, richly embroidered with metallic thread and decorated with silver-gilt ornaments. He carries a purple velvet-covered shield with silver-gilt boss and ornaments and a long spear. A gold-coloured metallic-based paint has been used to represent metalwork and gold embroidery.

There is an inscription written in the bottom left corner of the painting in Ge'ez, the ancient ecclesiastical language of Ethiopia. It reads Ase Menelik N.N. zaitiyopiya, or Emperor Menelik King of Kings of Ethiopia. The title (Ase) implies that the Emperor is no longer ruling or has died and NN is short for Negus Negast, or King of Kings.

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Height: 90.00 cm
Width: 36.50 cm

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Donated by JC Guinevan


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