Benin Plaques

Description

The Benin Empire occupied present day Nigeria and was extremely rich due to the wealth of resources at its disposal.


Known as the “Benin Bronzes” these pieces of artwork adorned the royal palace in Benin City. The main purpose of these plaques was to give praise to the Oba, the name for the divine king. The king was the center of all socio-political activities and the plaques depicted the day-to-day events that occurred in the court. Symbolism and the status of those depicted were valued over the realism of the subjects.


These pieces range in age from the early 18th century to the mid 20th century. While bronze makes up the majority of the composition mixtures of brass, ceramics, and ivory can also be found in each piece.


The warrior chief or king are always located in the center of the plaque and are generally flanked by soldiers and advisors. Imagery of a leopard is prominently displayed, due to it being the principle symbol of the king. Members of the court are adorned with leopard related items to liken them to having the stealth, ferocity, and speed of a leopard.

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