Bell (Ekure)


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 681

Elaborate hand bells like this one are extremely rare, especially with equestrian depictions symbolizing male achievement. Such a bell was probably made for a lesser member of the royal entourage as it is a single, not double bell and is made of brass not ivory. The bell is clapperless so its ring (pitch g1 –g above middle c) is produced by striking its outer surface when it is used at annual courtly ceremonial functions to assist in repelling evil spirits. The unusually elaborate decoration of the bell and handle includes small crotal bells vertically aligned along the edges border, a leopard head (symbol of royal power) flanking each side of the oval mouth, and an interlaced pattern filling band at lip. The front is dominated by a horse and rider in relief-his left hand holding a staff, his right holding the reigns, the horse’s neck and head emerge from the bell’s surface three dimensionally. The back features in relief a crocodile, a symbol of the Oba and his connection to Olokun (sea god) a theme repeated at the end of the bell’s handle. The bell’s surface treatment sets the figures against a stippled background with a vine-like meanders and on the back a floral (tulip) pattern.

Bell (Ekure), Brass, Edo

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