Galerie Peter Herrmann

Ancient Art from Africa - Benin & Ife

Relief Plaque with Oba Esigie
Benin, Nigeria
41 x 47 cm


The central figure on this plaque is also the largest and features various attributes that distinguish him as Oba. He wears the typical coral necklace as jewellery and a large helmet with coral ornamentation, and he is the only one of the four figures that sits on a horse, aided by the other three. One of the other figures leads this horse, another holds what appears to be a bronze-cast bird in his hand and, along with the third figure, supports the Oba. The Oba's relaxed bearing and the proximity of the horse's head to the attendant's stomach imbue the plaque with a charming dynamism.

According to Paula Ben-Amos, this scene depicts the Beninese king Esigie's victorious return from the Igala War. Before the Oba's departure for the war, a prophesising bird is said to have predicted disaster; Esigie had the bird killed and, upon his victorious return, proclaimed that those who want to be successful in life should never trust a prophesising bird. Afterwards, he had a bird cast in bronze as a trophy of his victory and endorsement of his declaration.

Paula Girshick BEN-AMOS: The art of Benin, London 1995, S. 35.

Similar objects:  


British Museum, London

Paula Girshick BEN-AMOS: The art of Benin, London 1995, S. 35.