Altar to the Hand Analysisn Benin, 18th-19th C

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Altar to the Hand (Ikegobo) of Ezomo Ehenua
18th–19th century
Nigeria; court of Benin
Brass

Here we have an interesting piece from modern day Nigeria. Press play for a formal description, the historical background, and an explanation of the meaning of various aspects of this object. Formal Description:

This sculpture is truly a remarkable work in many senses. As a whole, it is sculpted in the round. The figures on top of the piece are also sculpted in the round. The figures surrounding the circular base, however, are carved in high relief. Regardless, each part of the sculpture possesses meticulous detail. The work displays symmetry and balance, reflecting the emphasis that Benin artists placed on harmony and interdependence in society. The proportions of the figures are conceptual, not realistic. A hierarchical scale portrays the statuses of figures through their respective sizes. Although the expression of the sculpture is static, it is somewhat narrative, giving it a dynamic sense. Though they are not depicted in motion, the various figures are portrayed in many different poses, in the midst of many different actions. This provides the sculpture with an energetic, multifaceted feeling. The faces of the figures appear to be generic, with conventional African features; large eyes, protruding ears, and full lips can be seen on each figure in the piece. The central figure protruding from the center of the base dominates the focus of the viewer. His facial features are naturally idealized in a fierce, dominating way. Its wild eyes convey the warrior-like spirit characteristic of African warriors. The three markings above each eye are typical of males in Benin society. Around his neck, he wears a necklace, possibly made of leopard teeth. The leopard represented the hunter mentality that the warriors embodied. High-ranking military officials often wore these necklaces to indicate their status.1 His bent knees give his body a powerful and...
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