Benin Royal Leopards

   Benin Royal Leopard
  Brass Standing Figure of a Royal Leopard (detail)

The Kingdom of Benin, a sliver of a place in present day Nigeria, has a history similar to China, replete with dynasties of kings who patronize artistic creation in support of their courts. The most renowned examples of Benin art are extraordinary sculptures cast in brass; and among all these sculptures, one particular form appears over and over again. It is a royal symbol- the leopard.

Benin Royal Leopard   

Why did the kings and queens of Benin hold the leopard in such high regard? Is it because the leopard is fierce and powerful, or is it because it’s stealthy and patient? The answer is both. The leopard was revered because of its innate ability to demonstrate balance between opposing forces, a trait considered essential to every king’s success.

Featured is a pair of finely cast, brass Royal Leopards. Feet firmly planted with heads held high, they stand in the middle between strength and reserve. They are not just beautiful works of art meant only for display. They are relevant symbols meant to remind us it is better to strive for balance between contrasting worlds rather than flip flop in the netherworld of extremes.

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