Not currently on display at the V&A

III. Shrine of Sacrifice

Print
1984 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

In 1897, following a series of frustrated attempts to end a monopoly on palm oil and various other commodities held by the Oba (king) of Benin, the British led a punitive raid on Benin City. Justification for this brutal event was sought, in the British press, by depicting the Oba and his people as ‘savages’ who practised human sacrifice. However, the elaborately carved ivories and cast brass plaques and sculpture seized from the royal court, and dispersed to British museum collections, were evidence of a sophisticated and technologically-advanced society.

This unsavoury aspect of British history was reflected on by artist Tony Phillips in a 1984 series of etchings, History of the Benin Bronzes. In this image, the third in the suite of twelve plates, we see the ‘Shrine of Sacrifice’ in Benin City. A bronze figure stands to the left of the image and other objects, including a sculpted head, lie on the floor.
interact Tony Phillips on the History of the Benin Bronzes I-XII Artist Tony Phillips was born in Liverpool in 1952. His work often takes the form of a series, exploring his subjects with multiple, interlinked images. In 1984 he created a group of prints that considers the history of the 'Benin Bronzes', and their forcible removal from Benin City by the...
Object details
Category
Object type
Additional titleHistory of the Benin Bronzes (series title)
Materials and techniques
Etching, printed in brown
Brief description
'Shrine of Sacrifice', etching from the series 'History of the Benin Bronzes', Tony Phillips, 1984
Physical description
Etching depicting the ‘Shrine of Sacrifice’ in Benin City. A bronze figure stands to the left of the image and other objects, including a sculpted head lie on the floor.
Dimensions
  • Height: 21.1cm
  • Width: 26.9cm
Measurements: 21.1 x 26.9 cm.
Copy number
Plate III of XII
Subjects depicted
Summary
In 1897, following a series of frustrated attempts to end a monopoly on palm oil and various other commodities held by the Oba (king) of Benin, the British led a punitive raid on Benin City. Justification for this brutal event was sought, in the British press, by depicting the Oba and his people as ‘savages’ who practised human sacrifice. However, the elaborately carved ivories and cast brass plaques and sculpture seized from the royal court, and dispersed to British museum collections, were evidence of a sophisticated and technologically-advanced society.



This unsavoury aspect of British history was reflected on by artist Tony Phillips in a 1984 series of etchings, History of the Benin Bronzes. In this image, the third in the suite of twelve plates, we see the ‘Shrine of Sacrifice’ in Benin City. A bronze figure stands to the left of the image and other objects, including a sculpted head, lie on the floor.
Associated objects
Collection
Accession number
E.50-1987

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Record createdJuly 27, 2000
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