One of the few Benin bronzes to leave the country before 1897, when the rule of Obas came to a sudden end.

The bronze was given as a gift to Swainson, an agent for James Pinnock, a Liverpool merchant in Benin in 1892, for the successful signing of a treaty. Probably represents a visitor to Benin territory, perhaps an emissary, or a member of an emissary's bodyguard, from the Moslem Emirates in the north and was possibly made to stand on the ancestral altars of one or more ruling Obas of the Middle Period (1525-1575). Three groups of horsemen totalling around a dozen pieces are known in Benin art; this sculpture belongs to the earliest which are the smallest and finest of all such works to survive.


Given to John Swainson by the Oba (King) Ovonramwen as a wedding present, 1892; by descent; Christie's, June 1978, withdrawn from the sale & sold by private treaty.

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