Plaque, 1500s-1600s. Nigeria, Benin Kingdom, Ẹdo peoples, members of the Igun Eronmwon (royal brasscasters) guild. Copper alloy; overall: 45.7 x 38.1 cm (18 x 15 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund 1999.1
Nearly 900 metal plaques once adorned the Ọba’s palace courtyard, documenting Benin’s history and customs. This one depicts two male attendants (enobore) supporting an Ọba. It uses hierarchical composition: important figures are large and centered. Everything about the Ọba is greater than his companions: their bodies, clothing, and jewelry. The flanking attendants physically support a man weighed down by heavy royal garments and responsibilities. Brasscasters skillfully cast their clasping hands projecting from the plaque. The bottom left number means the British Museum formerly owned this. It entered their collection in 1898, one year after British troops took it from a palace storeroom during the Siege of Benin.