A charming small Benin bronze warrior statue standing 11 inches tall and weighing 2.5 pound. This delightful figurine will be an excellent addition to any collection.
Many Benin bronze sculptures depict the king or his attendants. Some statues and plaques will even portray invaders such as the Portuguese.
Unlike other cultures, the people of the Benin Kingdom did not create tribal art, it was ordered to be made by the Oba. Using the lost-wax casting method, beautiful brass heads and plaques were littered throughout the palace as well as sculpted tusks and terracotta. Some pieces guarded the palace doors while others were placed on altars to honor ancestors where sacrifices were often made.
The leopard is repeatedly portrayed in Benin art. “The leopard of the house” is frequently used to describe the oba, signifying his mastery over the wilderness and his powerful presence.
Soldiers of the royal court were often adorned with small brass trinkets they attached to their waistband and uniform. This was to show their prestige and power in the community.
In 1897, an army of British soldiers raided Benin City in retaliation of a previous battle in which all but 2 men had perished. They burned homes, religious buildings and palaces. The city’s walls, estimated to be four times longer in total than the Great Wall of China, was left in ruins. Once the British secured the city, they began looting. Over 2500 religious artifacts and pieces of art, including bronze leopards and sculptures, were sent to England. They began auctioning off the bronze statues and other artwork to cover the war expenses, but some were spread throughout European museums.
Most, if not all, Benin bronze leopards, heads and sculptures are held in museums. When purchasing bronze sculptures on the market today, they are most likely replicas but are usually created using the same traditional lost wax casting method.