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Benin Bronze Aegis-pendant of Oba Nigeria African Art

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Title Benin Bronze Aegis-pendant of Oba Nigeria Africa
Type of Object Aegis-pendant
Country of Origin Nigeria
People Edo at Benin
Materials Brass/Bronze
Approximate Age Unknown-20 th century replica based upon plaques dating to 1550 to 1650.
Dimensions Height: 10 Inches
Width: 8.25 Inches
Overall Condition Good
Damage/Repair Some oxidation, missing parts on edges, chips

Beautiful sculptured plaque!

Additional Information: Bronze aegis-pendant depicting King Oba surrounded by court attendants were noted at the palace of the Oba the ruler of Benin, the capital city of the Edo people in Nigeria as early as the mid 1600s. The aegis which were worn as pendant by the King Oba, are conservatively dated to have been made as early as 1550 to the 1650 and apparently fell out of use sometime in the early 1700s. These wonderfully sculpted plaques show ritual and ceremonial events and it is argued by some that they portray historical events and personages. What is shown in this wonderful worke is a Oba with kneeling attendants who support his arms during a ceremony. They are shown wearing hig rank ceremonial headdresses, and collars and special skirts.

These pendants were cast in high relief using the lost wax technique in combining copper with lead. The russet brown color of the surface comes from the rich red laterite soil of the Benin region. They reflect the technique and high quality of brass casting known a Benin from the 1500s onwards. The wax is modeled to shape the figures and the flat sheet background was decorated with dots and the leaves known as ebe-ame, used in healing.

Benin City was the center of power for the great Edo kingdom from the 1300s to 1897 when the kingdom was overthrown by the British and the Oba exiled. The king returned in 1934 and the kindom of Benin reestablished though in a diminished form than in the past. This bronze pendant is based upon a 16th century original and is a stylized portrait showing a royal or warrior chief at the Court of Benin. That this is a replica cannot be doubted, but what is important to note is that the skill of the Nigerian bronze and brass casters of today who cast this head continue a tradition nearly 500 years old at Benin and have not lost their skill in producing interesting works of art. This is particularly true when the casting is reversed and one can see the technical difficulty in casting the piece.

Recommended Reading:

Augustus Pitt-Rivers, Antique Works of Art From Benin, 1900
Hagen, Dr. K., Altertumer von Benin, Jahrbuch der Hamburgischesen Wissenschaftlichen Anstalten, V. XVII, 1900.
H. Ling Roth, Great Benin, Its Customs, Art and Horrors, 1903 (1968).
Dark, P. J. C., W. & B. Foreman, Benin Art,1960.
Dark, P. J.C., An Introduction to Benin Art and Technology, 1973.
Ben-Amos, P. The Art of Benin, 1980.
Freyer, B., Royal Benin Art, 1987.
Ezra, K., Royal Art of Benin, The Perls Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992.
Duchateau, A., Benin, Royal Art of Africa from the Museum fur Volkerkunde, Vienna, 1994.

I have examined this piece and agree with the description

Niangi Batulukisi, PhD