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Relief plaque showing a crocodile with mudfish
Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria
Height x width: 19 1/4 x 7 1/2 in. (48.9 x 19.1 cm)
Medium or Technique
Benin Kingdom Gallery (Gallery 172)
The motif on this bronze plaque—a crocodile holding a mudfish in its jaws—is fairly uncommon in the set of more than 800 plaques that once decorated the pillars in the audience hall of the Oba, or king, of Benin. It occurs on two other plaques in the National Museum, Benin City. While the mudfish is usually seen as a metaphor for the Oba, here it is part of a more complex image and has a different meaning. Scholars of Benin art and contemporary palace officials suggest that the crocodile and mudfish may be related to sacrifices offered to the god of wealth, Olokun.
16th century, commissioned by Oba Esigie (r. 1517-1550s) or his son Oba Orhogbua (r. 1550s-1570s), Royal Palace, Benin City; by descent to Oba Ovonramwen (Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, b. about 1857 – d. about 1914; r. 1888 - 1897); 1897, taken from the Royal Palace during the British military occupation of Benin. 1898 until 1972, British Museum, London (accession no. 98 1-15.180); 1972, acquired from the British Museum by Robert Owen Lehman, Rochester, NY; 2012, promised gift of Robert Owen Lehman to the MFA.
Robert Owen Lehman Collection