When the Portuguese made the first European contact with the west African kingdom of Benin in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the kingdom was experiencing a golden age. Its authority on the Guinea Coast was expanding through military conquests, and during the sixteenth century it became a leading power in the region and a major trade partner for European merchants. Benin remained an influential independent state and a major political and economic power on the coast, though with periods of both decline and prosperity, until its conquest by the British in 1897. The arrival in Europe of the treasures from Benin produced an enormous sensation, causing a re-evaluation of and new appreciation for African art. This sumptuous photographic book showcases a series of specially taken photographs of key pieces in the British Museum's collection. It opens with an introduction to the kingdom, court and culture of Benin, which is followed by thematic sections including kingship, ceremony, women, Europeans, and animals. Throughout, stunning photographs of the works are featured alongside close-up details.
Arts-Photography, History-Criticism, Criticism,