Plaque of Oba Esigie on Horseback with Attendants

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Benin Kingdom, Nigeria

Plaque of Oba Esigie on Horseback with Attendants, 16th/17th century

48 x 39 cm (18 7/8 x 15 3/8 in.)
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum, III C 8056

Capitalizing on the influx of brass that came with coastal trade, Oba Esigie increased his patronage of the royal guild of brass casters (igun eronmwon) and commissioned plaques to decorate his palace, many of which commemorate specific people and events. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the oba and the highest-ranking members of his court rode horses in warfare and during ritual processions. Here, an oba is portrayed riding sidesaddle in a stately procession. Young servants support his arms and higher-ranking officials shield his head. The oba is almost certainly Esigie, who is called “the ruler on horseback.”