[Skip to content] [Skip to main navigation] [Skip to user navigation] [Skip to global search] [Accessibility information] [Contact us]

See full details Description

This object is for display as an example of one of the many stages in the ‘Lost Wax’ and brass casting process of making Benin wall plaques. This stage of the process is the part that is ‘lost’ when the mould is heated and is not normally seen.



Wax covered cast with detail in wooden base.

Details

plaque; casting; stage of manufacture
HC.1999.938.4
Anthropology

1 item (description level: part)
Broad category
Education Handling Collection: Anthropology, How things are made
Additional names, titles, or classifications
catalogue name:  plaque; casting; stage of manufacture
object name:  plaque
object name (Horniman Ethno.):  casting
object name (Horniman Ethno.):  stage of manufacture (metalworking: casting)

Place
Nigeria, West Africa; Africa
Additional place information
made or collected:  Nigeria 
Culture
Bini
Additional culture information
Edo  (Nigeria)

Materials & techniques
clay; wax
Additional material & technique information
material: wax (overall)
material: clay (overall)
Measurements
overall: 380 x 350 x 40 mm
Additional measurement information
overall: 380 x 350 x 40 mm

Use
This object is for display as an example of one of the many stages in the ‘Lost Wax’ and brass casting process of making Benin wall plaques. This stage of the process is the part that is ‘lost’ when the mould is heated and is not normally seen. How is it used? This detailed wax model is used to make the clay mould for a Brass Plaque. Soft clay is added carefully on top of the delicate wax and heavier clay around this before it is heated during which the wax melts but not before it has left its imprint in the clay mould. Brass Plaques were used in Ancient Benin to make a permanent record of the important people and events in the history of the kingdom. They were displayed on the walls of the palace of the King (or Oba). They were created by master craftsmen appointed by the King. Who is it used by and why them? The people of Ancient Benin are well known for their Brass/Bronze casting techniques and used these skills to make artefacts that recorded important people and events in their history. In Edo, the language of Ancient Benin, ‘to remember’ (sa-e-y-ama) literally means ‘to cast a motif in Bronze’. The Edo language was only spoken and not written so metal casting was an important way of recording their history. The plaques show past Kings, merchants, warriors, chiefs and famous priests. They recorded events, stories, trade arrangements, triumphs and victories. Such plaques hung on the walls of the Royal Palace and many were removed when the British Army captured Benin City in 1897. This wax model is one stage in a series made for the Horniman Museum Education Department in 1998 to show how brass plaques are made using the lost wax process.
Manufacture
This is a stage in a method of brass casting called the ‘Lost Wax ‘ process, sometimes also known as the ‘Cire Perdu’ process.This method of casting uses a clay mould to make an object. Although this is an ancient process it is still practised today. A detailed wax model like this one is covered in clay which is then fired in a kiln. During firing the wax melts leaving an imprint in the clay (a mould) which is later filled with molten metal. To achieve the detail in the final brass plaque the maker must spend many hours sculpting and modelling beeswax into the fine lines and features required for each piece. Made by Brass Caster, John Ihama of 30 Igun Street in Benin City, Nigeria in 1998. Brass casting techniques are traditionally passed from father to son and Chief Ihama began to teach John when he was still a young boy.

Further reading
Ben-Amos, Paula. 1980. The art of Benin. London: Thames & Hudson (discusses similar)
Duchateau, Armand. 1994. Benin: Royal art of Africa from the Museum für Völkerkunde, Vienna. Munich: Prestel, 1994. (discusses similar)

Related objects
similar:  plaque (art) (object-9220)
similar:  figure (communication artefact) (object-9127)
similar:  figure (communication artefact); single figure (figure (art)) (object-9263)
similar:  figure (communication artefact); single figure (figure (art)) (object-9258)
plaque (object-9237)
figure (ritual & belief: representations) (object-9225)
Related subjects
association: Africa
classified as: Edo
classified as: stage of manufactures (metalworking: casting)
classified as: castings (art)
object name (Horniman Ethno.): plaques (art)
object name: stage of manufactures (metalworking: casting)
material: plaques
material: clay
wax

Record created 1999-08-07
Record last updated 2019-01-03

Collections information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. More information on the objects listed on our website.

This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be some errors. The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

If you have any further information about objects in our collections or can suggest corrections to our information, please contact us.