A lack of written records from many lost African kingdoms sometimes prohibits pinpointing the exact meaning of a work; the true identity of this bronze horse and rider, which was placed on royal altars more than three hundred years ago, has eluded scholars to this day. The figure, which may represent a defeated king or warrior from another culture, could have celebrated a great victory in battle. Or it could depict the Benin oba himself, since horses were a rare luxury reserved for royalty. Other scholars believe the rider commemorates Oranmiyan, a prince from a neighboring kingdom who founded the royal lineage and introduced horses to the new kingdom.
Artist Benin, African
  • Horse and Rider
Date early 17th century
Medium bronze
Dimensions Overall (by sight): 18 1/2 × 7 1/4 inches (47 × 18.4 cm)
Credit Line Gift of Mrs. Walter B. Ford II
Accession Number 1992.290
Department Africa, Oceania & Indigenous Americas
On View African: Fit for a King, Level 1 (see map)
African Masterworks In The Detroit Institute of Arts. Washington, D.C., 1995, cat. no. 34.