Africa Direct
Africa Direct

Benin Bronze Leopard Head Sculpture Nigeria

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Brand Unbranded
Type of Object Metal
Country of Origin Nigeria
People Edo
Materials Bronze
Approximate Age 20th century
Height (in) 10
Width (in) 5
Depth (in) 6
Overall Condition Good. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners.
Damage/Repair Patina, worn surface, some minor casting flaws, small holes. See photos for details

A great bronze casting of a stylized leopard head from Benin in Nigeria. Decorated with textured patterns, this cat represents a fine example of the legendary metal workers of Benin. Benin examples of leopards are known as being ritually used as aquamanile to pour water during ceremonies. The age of this figure is difficult to determine however what is important to note is that the skill of the Nigerian bronze casters of today who cast this leopard continues a tradition nearly 500 years old at Benin and have not lost their skill in producing wonderful works of art.

The Benin Kingdom was founded by the son of an Ife king around 1300, but it was not until the 15th/16th century that the kingdom reached its zenith. Sometime in the 15th century, members of the kingdom made contact with Portuguese traders living along the coast, and it is likely that some of the skills found in their metalworks were learned from these interactions. The originals of these castings date to the 12th to 15th centuries and are worth millions of dollars. The present day inhabitants, the Edo and Yoruba, of Benin continue to produce art today inspired by these famous early masterpieces.