Bronze Drinking Cup

bronze cup
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Detail of the face


Detail of the cup


The ancient Kingdom of Benin was located in the southern part of present day Nigeria.

The Benin Bronzes are a group of more than a thousand commemorative metal plaques and sculptures that decorated the royal palace of the Benin Kingdom. In 1897, most of the plaques and other objects were removed by the British during a punitive expedition to the area as imperial control was being consolidated in Southern Nigeria. Today, a large number are held by the British Museum; other notable collections are in Germany and the United States.

Although the works generally are called the Benin Bronzes, they are made of different materials. Some are made of brass, others are non-metallic, made of wood, ceramics, ivory, leather, or cloth.

According to tradition, the lost-wax casting technique was introduced to Benin by the son of the Oni, or sovereign of Ife. Their tradition holds that he taught the Benin metal workers the art of casting bronze using lost-wax techniques during the thirteenth century.These great Benin artisans refined that technique until they were able to cast plaques only an eighth-of-an-inch thick, surpassing the art as practiced by Renaissance "masters" in Europe.

Bronze and ivory objects had a variety of functions in the ritual and courtly life of the Kingdom of Benin.

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