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Pendant of a Portuguese horseman
Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria
Length x width: 12.7 x 12.7 cm (5 x 5 in.)
Medium or Technique
Benin Kingdom Gallery (Gallery 172)
This pendant is one of six that display a horse and rider. The rider’s torso and arms are viewed head on, but his lower body and the horse appear in profile. This twisting posture is a rare, dynamic stance in Benin art, one usually associated with foreigners. The horseman’s features and his armor clearly identify him as Portuguese. At his waist is a rapier, and in his right hand he carries a match stick—a forked staff for holding a slow burning match to ignite powder in a cannon.
16th century, probably commissioned from the Igun Eronmwon, or royal brasscasters guild, by a member of the court of Benin. 1897, taken from the Royal Palace, Benin City, during the British military occupation of Benin by Dr. J.P. Howe, England; by descent within his family to Captain J.S. Howe, R.E. and then to Mrs. R.M. de Pury; June 20, 1961, Mrs. R. M. de Pury and others sale, Sotheby’s, London, lot 138. By 2011, Robert Owen Lehman, Rochester, NY; 2012, promised gift of Robert Owen Lehman to the MFA.
Robert Owen Lehman Collection