Galerie Peter Herrmann
Ancient Art from Africa
  To main page Bronzes  
Kleinwüchsiges Paar

Photo: Peter Herrmann

Thermoluminescence - Expertises Pair of short stature

thermoluminescence dating

thermoluminescence dating

Benin-Culture, Nigeria
Bronze. Around 1600
62 and 63 cm

Edited in the net since december 2023

Certain of its attributes - the deformation of the spine and head, the compressed forearms and the sunken chest - indicate that it depicts a dwarf. In Benin, physical deformities were traditionally associated with specific functions at the palace. Little people often lived at the royal palace of Benin as court dwarves and jugglers, their mere appearance apparently considered amusing (an historical assumption that is feasible but not verifiable).

The unusually individualistic rendering of physical traits in this sculpture - the hair, for example, the accentuation of the beard and the special posture typical of little people - attests not only to a high level of artistic skill on the part of the casting guilds, but also to the prestige of this dwarf. In fact, the responsibilities of the dwarf extended beyond entertainment to care of shrines, market surveillance and intelligence gathering for the Oba. That this dwarf was accorded the honour of having a memorial made for him from the then-precious material bronze is a clear indication of his important position at the royal palace.

Though statues of dwarves were not part of the standard inventory of an altar, this bronze was probably made for an ancestral shrine; the very individualized traits indicate a concrete portrait, for the most part uncommon in Beninese art. Evidently, the casting tradition in Benin was not yet as scrupulously codified at the time of the creation of this object as it later would become.

Except of some little deformations at the forehead and belly the object is in a good condition.

Felix von LUSCHAN: Die Altertümer von Benin, Band 1, Berlin 1919, S. 299/ 300.
Philip J. C. DARK: An introduction to Benin art and technology, Oxford 1973, S. 97.
Paula Girshick BEN-AMOS: The art of Benin, London 1995, S. 43.
Barbara PLANKENSTEINER (Hg.): Benin. Könige und Rituale. Höfische Kunst aus Nigeria, Wien 2007, S. 308 - 311.

Female od short stature
Female. 63 cm

Line grey
Objects of Comparison:   Illustration

  Luschan S. 299-301
Museum für Völkerkunde, Wien  
Philip J. C. DARK: An introduction to Benin art and technology, Oxford 1973, Tafel 36.

William B. FAGG: Bildwerke aus Nigeria, München 1963, S. 55.

Armand DUCHATEAU: Benin. Kunst einer afrikanischen Königskultur, München 1995, 74.

Barbara Plankensteiner: Benin - Könige und Rituale. Höfische Kunst aus Nigeria. Ausstellungskatalog des Museums für Völkerkunde, Wien.2007. S.2, 309.

male. 62 cm