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Print - XII. Face to Face

XII. Face to Face

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    United Kingdom (made)

  • Date:

    1984 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Phillips, Tony, born 1952 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Etching, printed in blue

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case MP, shelf 225

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 the series, Phillips adopts the unusual technique of reusing a printing plate to create a second image, with elements of the first image still visible. Thus, in this image, the last in the suite of twelve plates, we revisit a mask worn by one of the odudua dancers (scene five, E.52-1987) to find it encased in glass and spot lit in a gallery. The schematic way in which the gallery environment is depicted emphasises the means by which the mask has been forcibly removed from its original context.

Physical description

Etching depicting a mask worn by one of the odudua dancers (scene five, E.52-1987), now encased in glass and spot lit in a gallery.

Place of Origin

United Kingdom (made)


1984 (made)


Phillips, Tony, born 1952 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Etching, printed in blue


Height: 21.6 cm, Width: 26.7 cm

Descriptive line

'Face to Face', etching from the series 'History of the Benin Bronzes', Tony Phillips, 1984

Subjects depicted

Sculpture; Gallery


Black History


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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