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Horse and Rider, early 17th century

  • Benin, African


  • Overall (by sight): 18 1/2 × 7 1/4 inches (47 × 18.4 cm)

Gift of Mrs. Walter B. Ford II


On View

  • African: Fit for a King


Africa, Oceania & Indigenous Americas

A lack of written records from many lost African kingdoms sometimes prohibits pinpointing the exact meaning of a work; the true identity of this bronze horse and rider, which was placed on royal altars more than three hundred years ago, has eluded scholars to this day. The figure, which may represent a defeated king or warrior from another culture, could have celebrated a great victory in battle. Or it could depict the Benin oba himself, since horses were a rare luxury reserved for royalty. Other scholars believe the rider commemorates Oranmiyan, a prince from a neighboring kingdom who founded the royal lineage and introduced horses to the new kingdom.

African Masterworks In The Detroit Institute of Arts. Washington, D.C., 1995, cat. no. 34.

Benin, African, Horse and Rider, early 17th century, bronze. Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of Mrs. Walter B. Ford II, 1992.290.