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Ornamental Plaque: Courtier




Kingdom of Benin (about 1280-present)


Ornamental Plaque: Courtier


16th-17th c.




46.5 x 18.5 x 5.6 cm


Gift of F. Cleveland Morgan, inv. 1962.F.1


Archeology and World Cultures

Hundreds of figurative plaques decorated the royal palace in Benin City, the capital of the kingdom of Benin (in the south of today’s Nigeria). They related the history of the kingdom. In this work a member of the court holds what may be a metal hammer, while his Portuguese-style hat brings to mind the trade between the Benin kingdom and Portuguese merchants that began in the fifteenth century. The majority of such plaques were looted by the British punitive expedition against Benin in 1897. This plaque was purchased in London by a certain Captain von Stolk, who subsequently traded it for an Emily Carr painting at Montreal’s Dominion Gallery in 1944. A few weeks later, F. Cleveland Morgan bought it for his collection. He donated it to the Museum shortly before his death in 1962.

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