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Figure of a king

Figure of a king
Usage Conditions Apply
Benin kingdom court style
Edo artist
18th-19th century
Copper alloy
H x W x D: 41 x 17.1 x 15.2 cm (16 1/8 x 6 3/4 x 6 in.)
Credit Line
Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn to the Smithsonian Institution in 1966
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
Object number
Label Text
The staff in the oba's left hand gives added power to his pronouncements. It is shaped like a double gong and studded with blades that are similar to the head of a metalsmith's finishing hammer. The blade of a ceremonial sword in the right hand and a large loop atop the head have broken off. The missing loop had the same form as the handle of the ceremonial sword.
Cast copper alloy standing male figure of a king with a sword (eben, missing blade) in his proper right hand, a gong with hammer blades in his proper left hand and a ram's head pendant on his proper right hip. Next to the central crown projection, the ends of a missing circular loop remain.
Benin Punitive Expedition, 1897
Dr. J.P. Howe, 1897 to 1934
Capt. J.S. Howe, 1934 to 1961
Sotheby and Co. auction, London, November 20, 1961
Joseph H. Hirshhorn, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1961 to 1966
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1966 to 1985
Exhibition History
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 4, 2017-ongoing
Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 17, 2014-July 31, 2016
The Ancient West African City of Benin, A.D. 1300-1897, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 28, 1987-June 1, 2004
Published References
Freyer, Bryna. 1987. Royal Benin Art in the Collection of the National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, no. 4.
Koslow, Philip. 1996. Benin: Lords of the River. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, p. 18.
Robbins, Warren M. and Nancy I. Nooter. 1989. African Art in American Collections. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. 220-221, no. 564.
Schrenk, J. L. 1994. The Royal Art of Benin: Surfaces, Past and Present. Ancient and Historic Metals. Proceedings of a symposium organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum and Getty Conservation Institute, November 1991. Ed. D. A. Scott, J. Podany and B. Considine. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Trust.
Screnk, Janet L. 1991. Corrosion and Past "Protective" Treatments of the Benin "Bronzes" in the National Museum of African Art. Materials Research Society. Material Research Society Symposium Proceedings, Vol. 185. p. 807, no. 16.
Data Source
National Museum of African Art
See more items in
National Museum of African Art Collection
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts
On View
NMAfA, Second Level Gallery (2193)