- Museum number
- Series: Benin Plaques
Relief plaque, part of; made of brass cast using the 'cire perdue' (lost wax) technique. Rectangular in form with side flanges (largely missing). Background surface decorated with stylised quatrefoil (river leaf) patterns and stippling. Rosettes in each corner.
Depicts standing figure warrior wearing helmet and surcoat; leopard's tooth necklet and collar of coral beads. Armed with a shield and part of a spear (?).
- Production date
Height: 39.40 centimetres
Weight: 5.80 kilograms
Width: 17.80 centimetres
Depth: 7.80 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- The relief brass plaques that used to decorate the Oba's (king's) palace are among the most well-known of all the royal arts of Benin. Although frequently described as 'Benin Bronzes' most plaques are made of leaded brass in varius compositions. It is widely accepted that they date to the 16th - 17th centuries.
In the years prior to the British Expedition royal influence in Benin was increasingly under threat from rival powers, both internal and external, with a focus on economic power and control of the important trading monopolies. However, the court and palace remained the political and spiritual centre of the Benin Kingdom. Earlier accounts written by Europeans visiting the city describe its size and scale. The palace complex was set up around atrium courtyards; some had galleries with wooden pillars supporting the roof. Brass plaques, possibly made in series, were fixed to these pillars. While belonging to well-established West African tradition of royal palace decoration, the Benin brass plaques represent a distinct and unique corpus of work, unparalleled elsewhere on the continent. They are cast using the cire perdue (lost wax) technique and show significant variation in the depth of the relief. Some of the plaques portray historical events or commemorate successful wars, while others are a vivid depiction of Benin court life and ritual. Several groups of plaques show clear stylistic similarities. William B. Fagg suggested that these plaques represent the work of master brass casters.
Fagg, William, 1973, 'Nigerian Images', London: Lund Humphries
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- During the British Expedition to Benin City (Edo) in 1897 objects made of brass, ivory, coral and wood were looted by British soldiers from the royal palace and various storerooms.
Some of these objects were sold or exchanged on the coast; many were brought to the UK where they were sold through private auction or were retained by soldiers of the expedition. The vendor of this plaque was an officer in the Benin Expedition.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number