West Africa, Benin, ca. 19th century CE. A cast bronze "palace" plaque depicting a mudfish legged king (oba) holding a wild cat in each hand, flanked by a pair of attendants holding similar felines and playing flutes, created via the cire perdue (lost wax) technique with incised details. The king wears a high beaded choker, multistrand necklace, beaded cap headdress w/ pendants and a cross finial, beads and/or scarification marks on his torso and arms, a hip wrap decorated with three masks. Custom stand. Size: 12.875" W x 12.5" H (32.7 cm x 31.8 cm); 14.5" H (36.8 cm) on stand.
The Oba's palace in Benin was comprised of an extensive array of buildings and courtyards as well as the setting for royal ancestral altars and elaborate court ceremonial rituals, many of which were depicted on relief bronze/brass plaques. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's catalogue entitled "Royal Art of Benin: The Perls Collection" the only historical reference to these plaques was a 17th century eyewitness description of the palace complex by Olfert Dapper which reads as follows: "It is divided into many magnificent palaces, houses, and apartments of the courtiers, and comprises beautiful and long square galleries, about as large as the exchange at Amsterdam, but one larger than another, resting on wooden pillars, from top to bottom covered with cast copper, on which are engraved the pictures of their war exploits and battles, and kept very clean." (quoted in Roth 1968: 160). Contrary to Dapper's account, these plaques were not engraved but rather cast in relief with details incised in the wax model.
Provenance: Ex-private New Jersey Collection
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