Benin Soldiers Bronze Plaque
Benin Soldiers. The Benin Bronzes were created by the Edo people starting in the 13th century, and, in 1897, the British appropriated most of them. Two hundred of the pieces were taken to the British Museum in London, while the rest were split among other museums. Today, a large number are held by the British Museum and are on display in hall 25 (in the Africa wing). Other pieces are in the United States and Germany, among other countries.
The Benin Bronzes led to a greater appreciation in Europe of African culture and tribal art. Initially, it appeared incredible that people supposedly so primitive and savage were responsible for such highly developed objects. Some even concluded that the makers’ knowledge of metallurgy came from the Portuguese. Today, it is clear that the bronzes were made in Benin beginning in the 13th century and that a large part of the collection dates to the 15th and 16th centuries. It is believed that these two golden ages in bronze work occurred during the reigns of Esigie (c. 1550) and of Eresoyen (1735-1750).
While the collection is known as the Benin Bronzes, not all the pieces are made of bronze: there are also pieces made of brass, of a mixture of bronze and brass, of wood, of ceramic, and of ivory, among other materials. The pieces were made using lost-wax casting and are considered the best sculptures made using this technique. (Read more on Benin bronzes here)