Smithsonian Collections

Bell

Image for Bell
Data Source
National Museum of African Art
Label Text
This type of bell, identified by its distinctive four-sided, flat-topped shape, was once placed on an ancestral altar in the royal palace. Its shape is thought to resemble the palace roof turrets. Benin Kingdom warriors wore smaller versions of these bells on their chests, as can be seen on the plaques that formerly covered the piers in the palace courtyard. The sound of the bells identified Benin Kingdom warriors in battle, served as a sign of the spiritual protection of the king and spread terror among the enemy.
Description
Cast copper alloy four-sided flat topped bell with iron clapper.
Provenance
Joseph H. Hirshhorn, Greenwich, Connecticut, before 1979
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1979 to 1985
Exhibition History
Slavery and Freedom, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 24, 2016 (ongoing)
Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 17, 2014-July 31, 2016
Life...Afterlife: African Funerary Sculpture, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 19, 1981-March 1, 1982
Published References
Freyer, Bryna. 1987. Royal Benin Art in the Collection of the National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, p. 42, no. 10.
Maker
Benin kingdom court style
Edo artist
Date
18th century
Credit Line
Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn to the Smithsonian Institution in 1979
Medium
Copper alloy, iron
Dimensions
H x W x D: 21.6 x 12.1 x 12.1 cm (8 1/2 x 4 3/4 x 4 3/4 in.)
Type
Musical Instrument
See more items in
National Museum of African Art Collection
Object number
85-19-22
Topic
Shrine/Altar
mask
Geography
Nigeria
Object Name
erowo