Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Figure: Male Warrior

Date:
1455–1640
Geography:
Nigeria, Lower Niger River region
Culture:
Lower Niger Bronze Industry
Medium:
Brass, clay, teeth, glass beads (?)
Dimensions:
H. 12 3/4 in. (32.4 cm)
Classification:
Metal-Sculpture
Credit Line:
Purchase, Edith Perry Chapman Fund, Rogers, Pfeiffer, Fletcher, and Dodge Funds; Gift of Humanities Fund Inc., by exchange; Mrs. Donald M. Oenslager Gift, in memory of her husband; Geert C. E. Prins Gift, and funds from various donors, 1977
Accession Number:
1977.173
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 352
The term "Lower Niger Bronze Industry" has been used by art historians to classify ancient copper-alloy sculpture discovered in the area of the Niger Valley that could not be traced directly to the famous metalworking centers of Benin and Ife. Since this label actually refers to a multitude of provincial casting sites, each with varying styles and techniques, one scholar has suggested that "Lower Niger Bronze Industries" would be a more apt description. Less is known of Lower Niger Bronze Industry works than those of Benin and Ife, but their existence suggests that copper-alloy casting was once widespread in what is now southern Nigeria.

Lower Niger Bronze Industry works show stylistic affinities with works from Benin and Ife. This resolute standing warrior has many characteristics that relate to the art of the Benin court, including the ornamental scars on his forehead, his asymmetrical skirt, and the leopard's-tooth necklace with a bell that guards his neck. Necklaces such as this, intended to intimidate enemies and protect the wearer, would have been filled with medicines and worn in combat. The figure's left hand wraps tendril fingers around a sword while his right supports a shield. His serene and steady eyes, slightly bulbous, seem to advise restraint.

Although it is not known how this object was originally displayed, the round holes in the center and heel of its feet could indicate that it was once attached to a larger structure. One scholar has suggested that it may even have stood upon the ridgepole of a house, where its vigilant demeanor would have made it an excellent guardian.
Hesling Collection, Scotland, until 1977; [Entwistle Gallery, Paris, until 1977]

African Arts -- back cover vol. 10 (1977), Back cover.

Jones, Mark. The art of the medal. London, 1979, pp. 91–96.

Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, and Kate Ezra. The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas/The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, p. 89.

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