An Artist Modeling a Clay Plaque


This file appears in: Oba's Palace, Benin City, Nigeria
An Artist Modeling a Clay Plaque
Public Domain

This photograph shows an artist modeling three European frontal figures in archaic dress, probably based on 16th-century brass plaques of the Portuguese that were kept in a storeroom at the time of the British invasion. Earthen plaques like this, however, were considerably larger.

An artist would have first modeled this clay plaque, allowed it to dry to leather hardness, then inset it into the palace wall. It is unclear which palace guild created such plaques, although the Igun Eronmwon brasscasters were accustomed to modeling clay, the first stage in the lost=wax casting process.

The photo itself is curious. If it dates from 1897, as von Luschan indicated, it must have been made for a chief, rather than the Oba, since the latter had been sent into exile. Chief Obaseki and some other prominent chiefs during the palace vacancy did have earthen decorations of this sort.


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