Edo okpa bronze cockrell - SOLD OUT

In African art, we find many zoomorphic representations. The rooster occupies an important place in the statuary of the kingdom of Benin. This exceptional copy is very finely carved. See below for more details on these remarkable objects that reflect the skill of Edo sculptors.

The young rooster is a recurring subject in the traditional art of the Benin court. This proud animal counts, its congeners of the museums of Cologne and Washington D.C., among the most refined sculptures which adorned, in past centuries, the ancestral altars of the Oba of Benin and its mother, Iyoba. Stylistically, these works of art can be dated from the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. Other, smaller and rudimentary copies are attributed at the end of the nineteenth and the middle, or even at the end of the twentieth century. The copies cited here are among the most realistic Benin bronzes.
They reveal from the royal bronziers, a deep personal knowledge and a great sense of observation. The process requires a lot of skill and patience: first, spread a film of wax on a smooth clay core, then engrave on the core complex patterns of patterned feathers and other features, for weeks, while the wax hardens, and finally give the cock its own stature and character. The most striking aspect of this cock, and others like it, is its individuality. Each could be the "portrait" of a real cock, or a compound of poultry that the bronzer kept in his barnyard, or which he had appreciated the flavor. And these ostentatious creatures ruled the hens and their chicks.
It should be noted that the oldest wife of the Oba was designated by the expression "the cock that sings the loudest". Its title, the Eson, had its equivalent in all the family harems (erie), from one end to the other of the kingdom of Benin; and still today, it remains in force wherever it subsists. Eson is always the eldest of the wives of a man in a harem. If compared to a rooster, it's because of his role as leader. Eson can give orders to other wives and arbitrate their quarrels, and she is supposed to preserve peace. She is highly listened to because of her age, which gives her not only the right to lead others but also the necessary knowledge and experience.
Although the oldest, Eson is not always the first wife; and, if the first wife of the Oba living in the royal harem can be Eson, she is not necessarily destined to become Iyoba, queen mother of Benin. This title is granted only to the wife who bore the first male child whose birth was proclaimed by the Oba himself. The curved, tapered or pointed hairstyle specific to Iyoba has been mistakenly compared to a "rooster's crest", apparently because of the name of Eson, "the loudest rooster". As previously stated, however, there is no mandatory correlation between the oldest wife of the Oba and Iyoba, biological mother of the future Oba of Benin. In addition, Iyoba's hairstyle is now compared to a "parrot's beak", ukpe okhue.
In Benin, both roosters and chickens are valuable offerings to the gods. Thus, women who want to start a pregnancy sacrifice, white hens to Olokun, god of waters and prosperity. Poultry are appreciated for their eggs, and in the "soups" stew consumed with different starchy foods.
Like many other foods, they were added to the local diet as a result of Portuguese explorations of the fifteenth century, when West Africa began trading with Asia and the Americas. The roosters that appear on the royal ancestral altars refer to the crown prince of Benin, the Edaiken of Uselu. He occupies a domain outside the capital itself (separated from his biological mother, who, as long as she is still alive, stays in the palace harem). And, if the Iyoba, his grandmother, is alive, he lives in another palace, in a separate domain in Uselu. The Crown Prince will reside in Uselu until the time has come for him to begin annual rituals for his father, before ascending the throne in the city of Benin. Like the young rooster, the Edaiken wins over the others as crown prince, and he acts in the name of the Oba during his lifetime. As a result, the cock in precious bronze naturally illustrates his pride and self-confidence. The use of this long-lived metal was traditionally reserved for the royal family. For family altars, the chiefs of the Oba were entitled to carved wood fowl and ancestral wooden heads. The bronze cocks like this adorn only the ancestral altars of the Oba and his mother.

Reference : Collectif (2007). Bénin cinq siècles d'art royal. Editions snoeck, 398-399 pp.

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Data sheet

Presumed dating
Circa 1940
51 x 37 cm
Ethnic group
Benin Kingdom / Bini Edo
Tribal Art Collection United Kingdom
Very good

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