Plaque of a Battle Scene, Possibly the Idah War

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Battle Master (active 16th/17th century)
Benin Kingdom, Nigeria

Plaque of a Battle Scene, Possibly the Idah War, 16th/17th century

55 x 39 cm (21 5/8 x 15 3/8 in.)
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, 1899.75

In the corpus of known works from the Benin Kingdom, the six plaques that depict battle scenes are among the most complex and accomplished. In this example, a high-ranking Edo warrior—the largest figure in the composition—has slashed and mortally wounded a soldier on horseback, probably the leader of the opposing army. At upper left, a second Edo warrior has injured and captured another combatant, and, at the far right, an Edo soldier holds the severed head of a rival. The taking of trophy heads in battle was a feature of Edo warfare.