Lot: 207

96th Auction

Fragment of a humanoid bell head

Nigeria, Lower Niger

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Patrick Caput, Paris, France H: 5.1 inch sold

bronze, base This fragment of a bell cast in the lost-wax process can be attributed to the style of the "Lower Niger Bronze Industry", a designation coined by William Fagg in 1959 as a catchall attribution for a hoard of bronze castings excavated around 1909 on the Forcados River in the western Niger Delta southwest of Benin city. The castings are diverse in terms of formal qualities, iconography, and technical sophistication and do not fit within the canons of copper alloy casting in the major centers (i.e. the Yoruba and Benin kingdoms and at Igbo Ukwu). The precise function of effigy bells is unknown. Many have been found in or on shrines, where they were used to summon ancestors and divinities. That the bells are made of a durable material, are technically sophisticated, and depict complex imagery suggest they were made for leaders or persons of high sociopolitical rank, perhaps kings or chiefs on whose behalf they were used on the occasion of the transfer of power or as part of the royal regalia.


Peek, Philip M., The Lower Niger Bronzes, New York, London 2021, p. 129 ff.
Paris, Galerie Éric Hertault, "Paris Tribal", 11-14 April 2018