This beautiful pair of Fon bronzes from Benin shows smoking figures in a cheerful, casual design, sitting loosely and enjoying their tasteful long tobacco pipe. They are identical casts, but they differ from each other by the engraving of clothing. This pair is made for tourists, but originally the statues were placed in a shrine by the locals at home. Thanks to their serene equality, these statuettes brought the spirits of the ancestorsin a good mood. In this way the progress of the community was stimulated. This refined form of bronze casting is characteristic of the city of Abomey in Benin, the capital of the former kingdom of Dahomey. Depicted is the last king Gbéhanzin, who reigned from 1889 to 1894 and then be brutally knocked off the throne after which his country transformed into a French colony. King Gbéhanzin was an avid smoker and his images are known with pipes that in form refer both to the European clay pipe and to the coarser, long-stemmed local products. The dating of such souvenirs is between 1900 and 1920. Ironically, they were sold to the settlers who probably did not know that they took home in their luggage the portrait of the rejected king.
Amsterdam Pipe Museum APM 22.763Permalink