The royal city is huge with many buildings. The galleries of the palace are covered with rectangular bronze plaques which remind the Edo traditions and history. The names of the successive Oba and the approximate dates of their reigns have been recorded and their heads sculpted in the round are the masterpieces of ancient African art.
This 'bronze' denomination assigned by early explorers has been retained but it is metallurgically incorrect. It is instead a brass. The artworks were executed by using a technique of lost wax casting developed long time before the first contact with the Portuguese that occurred around 1485. This remarkable discovery provides the evidence of an advanced technology in this continent too long considered as primitive by the Christians.
The production of these images spans over more than five centuries. The composition of the alloy and its conservation cannot be homogeneous over such a long period. The theme and style have however barely changed : war scenes, portraits of characters from the court. This extraordinary native collection was dispersed by a British punitive expedition in 1897.
On November 24 in Paris (Drouot), Binoche et Giquello sell an Edo plaque from Benin kingdom 47 x 21 cm in great condition, lot 16 estimated € 600K. It is dated by the catalog in the seventeenth century of our calendar which undoubtedly represents a culmination of this art. Here is the link to the auction house's website.
The standing figure is very finely carved, with the robe of a rainmaker priest and the pointed headdress of a member of the royal family. Clothing and background are decorated with geometric patterns.