This relief depicts five Europeans hunting animals that look like leopards but possess strangely-fanned tails and unusual neck ornamentation - quirks that led Luschan, in 1919, to interpret them as mythical creatures. It is not clear if this scene depicts a concrete, historical event or was meant purely to display two symbols of authority: leopards and Portuguese people, both of which were seen as signs of the Oba's power. Since the beginning of trade between Benin and Portugal at the end of the 15 th century, the foreign-looking Europeans were often depicted on bronze plaques.
This Plaque with Leopard Hunt is especially noteworthy for the various points of view from which its subjects are depicted: the plants are shown from a top-down perspective, the leopards in profile and the Portuguese hunters diagonally from above, their legs disappearing into the plaque. The object thus departs considerably from the prevailing formula in Benin, perhaps because the artist was trying to achieve artistic perspective in the European sense of the word. Based on its especially individualized characteristics, William B. Fagg attributes the only other almost-identical plaque we know of - located in the national Ethnological Museum in Berlin - to a so-called "Master of the Leopard Hunt," who supposedly created seven additional plaques in a similarly original and inventive style.
William B. FAGG: Bildwerke aus Nigeria, München 1963, S. 52/ 53.
Barbara PLANKENSTEINER (Hg.): Benin. Könige und Rituale. Höfische Kunst aus Nigeria, Wien 2007, S. 455.