Anonymous: Benin bronze - The Oba with Europeans (16th century)

(British Museum, London, UK)

Something completely different this time. This is a brass sculpture from Benin, Africa. These sculptures (often called the 'Benin Bronzes') used to adorn the royal palace of the king (the 'oba') in Benin city. Benin was a powerful empire in West Africa from 1180 to 1897. The empire came to an end with the British 1897 punitive expedition during which British soldiers invaded Benin (the expedition was a retaliation after an British expedition of about 250 men was massacred by Benin troops a year earlier) and burned Benin city to the ground. During this process most of the Benin art was looted by the British and auctioned afterwards, including the famous 'Benin Bronzes'. This sculpture the Oba in the middle. He is dressed in a loin-cloth with a plaited border and a close-fitting, sleeved upper garment, covered with cylindrical beads. To his left and right are two attendants. Above the attendants are two long-haired Europeans, probably either Portuguese or Dutch, who are wearing a hat with a feather. Sculpture from the 16th century.