Portuguese Musketeer

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Benin Kingdom, Nigeria

Portuguese Musketeer, 16th century

44.5 x 23 x 20 cm (17 1/2 x 9 1/16 x 7 7/8 in.)
The National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 54.19.1

Access to novel forms of weaponry was an important motivation for forging bonds with the Portuguese. Oba Esigie took Portuguese mercenaries to war with him in struggles that ultimately strengthened the kingdom and consolidated the oba’s power. This figure is among several that dynamically portray Portuguese soldiers with their weapons. They commemorate military strength and symbolize the oba’s wealth and influence. Details of the soldiers’ uniforms, swords, and wheel-lock guns are carefully rendered, including accessories such as the powder flask, carried at the waist, and the spanner for turning the lock mechanism, carried on the thigh.