Benin Art – History And Origin of Benin Art

The Benin Art is our topic for today and Our team is sure you will find it interesting.

According to history, Benin Art originated from the powerful ancient Benin kingdom, located in the south-south region of Nigeria.

Benin Art is also known as Court Art because it was discovered at the king’s palace and majorly produced for the court of the oba of Benin (the supreme ruler of Benin kingdom who ordered for a range of ceremonial objects).

It is (Benin/Art) majorly composed of bronze, Ivory and wood. They are highly decorative and majorly royal works. These works of art are of great significance to the Benin people; especially for historical references and as ritual objects. This topic will be further explained under the following headings for easy reading;

Benin Art
Benin Art Ivory Mask


  • Location
  • Area of discovery
  • Media
  • Dating
  • Characteristics
  • Aesthetic principles

Recommended; Benin City Postal/Zip Codes

Location: The Art originated from the powerful ancient Benin kingdom,  Benin city, Edo State, Nigeria.

Area of discovery: It was first discovered in 1897 at the king’s palace, when British Soldiers conquered and gained access to the palace of oba Ovoranwen.

Media: It is majorly composed of cast bronze, carved ivory, and wood.

Dating: It can be dated back to the 14th—15th century.

Characteristics of Benin Art

  • Beaded Neck
  • Mark on forehead
  • Semi naturalistic
  • It is the only art culture that has ivory
  • Mostly royal figures
  • Highly decorative

Aesthetic principles

1. Triadic Symmetry:  Tridiac art appears as two figures flanking a central figure on a carved ivory tusk in the royal arts.

2. Frontality: Figures appear frontally with feet firmly plaited and their torsos and heads facing the viewer directly.

3. Alteration: This refers to patterns on ivory saltcellars that alternate figures and animals surrounding the object.

4. Decoration In the round: Ivory tusks and saltcellars serve as examples of Benin artists’ preference for decoration in the round.

Importance Things You Should Note About Benin Art

Brass casters (igun eronmwon) are the highest-ranking craft guild within the hierarchical structure of the Iwebo society, followed by blacksmiths (igun ematon) and ivory and wood carvers (igbesanwan).

The origins of brass casting in Benin are debated. One popular story credits Oba Oguola (enthroned c. 1280) with sending for a master brass caster from Ile Ife, the capital city of the ancient Ife kingdom to the northwest, and with later establishing a royal brass-casting guild.

Others suggest brass casting developed independently in Benin and may have mutually benefited from exchange with Ile Ife.

Casters in both regions used the lost wax method, in which a precisely detailed wax model is formed over a clay core. When the model is complete, clay is carefully applied over the wax. It is then heated, melting the wax, which exits from a narrow channel.

Next, molten metal is poured into the mold. Once cool, the hardened clay is chipped away, leaving behind an image now cast in bronze.

Benin Art Edo State

Following the bloody British punitive expedition to Nigeria, about three thousand brass, ivory and wooden objects were consigned to the Western world. At that time, western scholars and artists were stunned by the quality and magnificence of these objects, more than 1,000 brass plaques were appropriated from the oba’s palace.

Dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, these plaques were secreted in a storage room. It is thought that they were nailed to palace walls and pillars as a form of decoration or as references to protocol.

They show the oba in full regalia along with his nobility, warriors and Portuguese traders. The most elaborate ones display a procession of up to nine people, while others depict only fish or birds.

The majority of everyday Benin objects were made for and associated with court ceremonies. The figures of a leopard were the sole property of the oba – the leopard was the royal animal.

Pectorals, hip and waist ornaments in the shape of human or animal heads were worn either by the oba or by major dignitaries. Brass staffs and clippers surmounted by birds appeared during commemorating ceremonies.

This is how far we can go this topic. Hope you found this article useful? Spread the love by sharing this article with your friends. Thanks for reading.


You may be interested In the following;

About the Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *