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Catalog Data

Benin kingdom court style  Search this
Edo artist  Search this
Copper alloy, iron
H x W x D: 51.4 x 14 x 16.2 cm (20 1/4 x 5 1/2 x 6 3/8 in.)
Benin kingdom, Nigeria
19th century
Label Text:
This figure, probably from a royal altar, combines local and European-influenced regalia. The musket implies membership in the Iwoki guild. Since the 16th century, the guild has cared for the royal guns and protected the oba. On the square base are depictions of musket balls and the severed head of an enemy, a rebellious chief. The extensions below the base are the remains of casting channels or sprues.
Cast copper alloy standing male figure with a musket on a rectangular base. The figure wears a leopard tunic, pleated skirt and short pants. A decapitated head, manilla and musket balls are in high relief on the base. Below the base are three flat rods into a semicircle, probably the remains of casting sprues.
Benin Punitive Expedition, 1897
Augustus Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers, Farnham, Dorset, before 1900
Pitt-Rivers estate, 1900 to 1965
Sotheby and Co. auction, London, November 15, 1965
Joseph H. Hirshhorn, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1965 to 1966
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1966 to 1985
Exhibition History:
BENIN-Kings and Rituals: Court Arts from Nigeria, Museum für Völkerkunde, Wien, May 9-September 3, 2007; Musée du quai Branly, Paris, October 2, 2007-January 6, 2008; Ethnologisches Museum-Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, February 7-May 25, 2008; The Art Institute of Chicago, June 27-September 21, 2008
The Ancient West African City of Benin, A.D. 1300-1897, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 28, 1987-June 1, 2004
The Stranger Among Us, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., March 24-September 7, 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, no. 19.
Koslow, Philip. 1996. Benin: Lords of the River. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, p. 46.
Pitt-Rivers, Augustus. [1900] 1976. Antique Works of Art from Benin. [London] New York: Dover, pl. 31, nos. 235-236.
Plankensteiner, Barbara. 2007. Benin Kings and Rituals: Court Arts from Nigeria. Ghent, Belgium: Snoeck Publishers, p. 330, no. 76.
Schrenk, J. L. 1994. The Royal Art of Benin: Surfaces, Past and Present. Ancient and Historic Metals. Proceedings of a symposium organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum and Getty Conservation Institute, November 1991. Ed. D. A. Scott, J. Podany and B. Considine. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Trust.
Shrine/Altar  Search this
weapon  Search this
male  Search this
Credit Line:
Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn to the Smithsonian Institution in 1966
Object number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
National Museum of African Art Collection
Data Source:
National Museum of African Art