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Royal double gong

Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria
17th century
Artist Unidentified


Length x width: 28.6 x 10.8 cm (11 1/4 x 4 1/4 in.)

Accession Number

L-G 7.7.2012

Medium or Technique

Copper alloy

On View

Benin Kingdom Gallery (Gallery 172)


Africa and Oceania, Musical Instruments



This fine bronze double-gong is ornamented by imagery of the Oba, or king, supported by two courtiers. The relief on the front of the instrument is perfectly suited to its use at major festivals and public ceremonies. The Oba, the queen mother, or a high-ranking palace official may have used this piece, and the sound they created while striking the gong added to prayers to protect the community from evil. The small spherical rattles on the edges and the smaller gong attached to the front produce different tones when tapped. Note the small figure on the upper edge of the gong, elaborately dressed in coral for a special occasion, and the small figure on the lower gong, who is holding a type of rattle.


17th century, commissioned from the Igun Eronmwon, or royal brasscasters guild, by the Oba of Benin; by descent to Oba Ovonramwen (Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, b. about 1857 - d. about 1914; r. 1888 - 1897), Royal Palace, Benin City; 1897, taken from the Royal Palace during the British military occupation of Benin by Dr. Felix Norman Ling Roth (b. 1857 – d. 1921); 1897, given by Roth to his brother, Henry Ling Roth (b. 1855 – d. 1925), Halifax, England; May 11, 1898, sold by Henry Ling Roth for £ 20 to Lt.-General Augustus Henry Pitt-Rivers (b. 1827 - d. 1900), Farnham, England; until the 1960s, kept at the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Farnham, and passed by descent within the family [see note]; 1970s, sold upon the dispersal of the collection. By 2011, Robert Owen Lehman, Rochester, NY; 2012, promised gift of Robert Owen Lehman to the MFA.

The collection of the privately-owned Pitt-Rivers museum passed by descent through Augustus Henry Pitt-Rivers’s son Alexander Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers to his grandson, Captain George Pitt-Rivers (1890-1966) and his common law wife, Stella Howson-Clive (Pitt-Rivers). The museum closed in the 1960s and the collection was sold.

Credit Line

Robert Owen Lehman Collection