Religious Sculpture


This ivory group, showing three figures wearing beaded headdresses and regal costume, was carved from the lower portion of the elephant tusk, where it hollows. The three figures appear to represent an Oba at the centre, supported by an official on each side. This is a frequent motif in Benin royal sculpture, which may signify that the Oba’s power is dependent on the loyalty and support of the people. Miniature figures of leopards, the royal animal, are carved at the ends of the semi-circular base. This ivory group was purchased in April 1898 from Dr Felix Roth, who served as surgeon to the Advance Guard with the British forces that attacked and looted Benin in February 1897. Dr Roth would have taken it as his portion of the unofficial loot, which the British officers who participated in the military attack on Benin shared out among themselves in February 1897.