Benin Bronzes: 18th-century royal statues and sculptures

Written by Setti Brookman, CNN Heritage Reporter From the 15th to the 18th centuries, over 10,000 bronzes and figurines were excavated from the town of Benin. Collectively they form the “Benin Bronzes: Expedition of…

Benin Bronzes: 18th-century royal statues and sculptures

Written by Setti Brookman, CNN Heritage Reporter

From the 15th to the 18th centuries, over 10,000 bronzes and figurines were excavated from the town of Benin. Collectively they form the “Benin Bronzes: Expedition of 1670.”

The objects were presented to King Akhenaten of Egypt, King Minakidit of Benin and Saggau III of Benin, and then to Egypt’s Sastourine I in 1676. However, after Akhenaten and Saggau III’s deaths, the objects were sent to Europe and were later looted by local populations, according to a release from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The museum is currently in discussions with the descendants of Akhenaten and Minakidit, to facilitate their repatriation.

The figures have been a “buzz of historical and intellectual interest” throughout the gallery, said Glenn Roberts, director of the museum, in a statement. “Historically, their acquisition exemplified European and North African tastes for exotic, often debauched forms with strong iconographic value.

“After their European purchase, their items were taken to Spain and then, during the colonial period, to West Africa.”

See some of these figures in action above.

Talks will begin in November, the museum said.

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