Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

Benin kingdom court style  Search this
Edo artist  Search this
Copper alloy, iron
H x W x D: 21.6 x 12.1 x 12.1 cm (8 1/2 x 4 3/4 x 4 3/4 in.)
Musical Instrument
18th century
Label Text:
This type of bell, identified by its distinctive four-sided, flat-topped shape, was once placed on an ancestral altar in the royal palace. Its shape is thought to resemble the palace roof turrets. Benin Kingdom warriors wore smaller versions of these bells on their chests, as can be seen on the plaques that formerly covered the piers in the palace courtyard. The sound of the bells identified Benin Kingdom warriors in battle, served as a sign of the spiritual protection of the king and spread terror among the enemy.
Cast copper alloy four-sided flat topped bell with iron clapper.
Joseph H. Hirshhorn, Greenwich, Connecticut, before 1979
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1979 to 1985
Exhibition History:
Slavery and Freedom, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 24, 2016 (ongoing)
Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 17, 2014-July 31, 2016
Life...Afterlife: African Funerary Sculpture, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 19, 1981-March 1, 1982
Published References:
Freyer, Bryna. 1987. Royal Benin Art in the Collection of the National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, p. 42, no. 10.
Shrine/Altar  Search this
mask  Search this
Credit Line:
Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn to the Smithsonian Institution in 1979
Object number:
See more items in:
National Museum of African Art Collection
Data Source:
National Museum of African Art