Water Container to Match the Monarch's Status


This file appears in: Oba's Palace, Benin City, Nigeria
Water Container to Match the Monarch's Status
Public Domain
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1978.412.321

At 15 11/16 inches long, this leopard is about half life size and is stylized, although fairly naturalistic. Representations of leopards stood as sculptures at the palace, acted as aquamanile water containers for the Oba's ceremonial handwashing, and can be found in two dimensions on plaques, mud reliefs, bracelets, hip pendants, and other art forms.

One of the Oba's praise names is "leopard of the house," while the feline, a counterpart monarch in the world of animals, is the "leopard of the bush." Fierce and beautiful like the ruler, leopard imagery in the military world signified the monarch had accorded warriors the right to take life. Some wore leopardskin tunics, leopard's tooth necklaces, or cast brass leopard head hip pendants.The Oba used to have a guild of leopard hunters, and kept leopards at the palace.


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