Plaque for Oba Esigie's Reception Courtyard


This file appears in: Oba's Palace, Benin City, Nigeria
Plaque for Oba Esigie's Reception Courtyard
©Trustees of the British Museum, Af1898,0115.38 
Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

This brass plaque (often called "bronze," but technically a brass since the main alloy components are copper and zinc) is one of over 800 that survive. They come in two consistent sizes: this one is approximately 20 x 15 inches, while the other is in a narrower rectangular format of about 19 x 8 inches. Commissioned in pairs, they were nailed to the wooden supports of a large quadrangle's partial roofing in Oba Esigie's reign. Although they were still in place in the 17th century, by the time of the British invasion they were kept in a palace storeroom and consulted for costume details or inspiration for new art objects.

This example shows either the Oba or a high-ranking chief at a palace ceremony. He is centrally positioned, and, as is typical in Benin art, the largest figure--hieratic scale indicates the relative rank of individuals via their size. The small nude figures are palace pages who, along with the figures holding shields to protect the central figure from the sun, form an entourage that emphasizes his importance.


This file appears in: Oba's Palace, Benin City, Nigeria