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HOME : African & Tribal Art : In Process : Benin Bronze Figure Holding A Cross
Benin Bronze Figure Holding A Cross - PH.0214
Origin: Benin Kingdom/ Nigeria/ Africa
Circa: 1850 BC to 1920 AD

Collection: African Art
Style: Benin

Location: United States
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Benin art is primarily based around a court context, and was designed to venerate the achievements and/or memory of the Obas, the divine rulers of Benin polities. As the office of the Oba became increasingly ceremonial, the art produced evolved into an instrument of the state. Until the late 19th century, the Benin centres were a ruling power in Nigeria, dominating trade routes and amassing enormous wealth as the military and economic leaders of their ancient empire. This changed with the appearance of the British forces, which coveted the wealth of the royal palaces and found a series of excuses to mount a punitive expedition against the Oba’s forces in 1897. It was only at this point, the moment of its destruction, that the true achievements of Benin polities became apparent to western scholars. Their work in bronze and copper, ironworking and sculpting in a range of materials that particularly included ivory was extremely refined and effective; indeed, smelting, forging and cire perdue (lost wax) metalworking methods exceeded any seen in Europe until the 19th century. This sculpture specifically demonstrates the unique Benin style and tremendous craftsmanship of the people. - (PH.0214)


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