Double Plaque of a Portuguese Man

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Master of the Circled Cross (active 16th/17th century)
Benin Kingdom, Nigeria

Double Plaque of a Portuguese Man, 16th/17th century

Top: 39 x 36 cm (15 3/8 x 14 1/8 in.); bottom: 40 x 38 x 6 cm (15 3/4 x 15 x 2 3/8 in.)
Top: The Trustees of the British Museum, London; bottom: Museum für Völkerkunde Wien, top: Af1898,0115.2; bottom: 64.718

In Benin’s royal arts, Portuguese merchants and missionaries are frequently associated with powerful, dangerous creatures of the water, including mudfish and crocodiles, as depicted in the quadrants of this plaque. This work is one of a small number of innovative double plaques that portray an image across two square panels. It is identified as the work of a 16th-century master brass caster whose style is distinguished by elongated figures and by the distinctive background motif of a circle around a square cross.