Commemorative Altar Sculpture



This remarkable cast bronze sculpture shows an Oba, or high-ranking military officer, wearing an elaborate ceremonial costume while mounted on a horse. The mounted figure wears a shield and carries a spear in his right hand. The sculpture may have been made in the late sixteenth century, possibly to commemorate Oba Ehengbuda. John Henry Swainson, a trader with the Liverpool firm Pinnock and Co., acquired this figure in 1892, probably as a diplomatic gift from Oba Ovonramwen. Swainson assisted Vice-Consul Gallwey to secure the Oba's proxy signature on a political 'treaty' between Britain and the Edo Kingdom during their visit to Benin City in March 1892. The sculpture was purchased from Peter Karpinski (a relative of Swainson) in 1978 with the assistance of The National Art Collections Fund and other donors.