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Lion and Birds

Unidentified Fon artist
late 19th century
Iron, copper, and wood
Place associated
Western Africa and the Guinea Coast, Benin, Africa
Ceremonial objects
Current Location
Not on view
9 1/2 x 12 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. (24.2 x 31.8 x 16.5 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Morton D. May
Public Domain
Object Number
This altarpiece was part of the royal regalia of King Glele, the Fon monarch who reigned from 1858 to the end of the 19th century in what was then called the Kingdom of Dahomey. The 19th-century British explorer Captain Sir Richard Burton described the king as tall, lithe, agile, and broad at the shoulders, all qualities befitting the description of a lion. Indeed, King Glele took the lion as his personal symbol. This piece probably rested on an altar and served as a support for the king's royal scepter. It was discovered buried in the earth after the European capture of the palace of King Behanzin.
- 1952
Dr. George Rony, Los Angeles, CA, USA [1]

Frank Perls Gallery, Los Angeles, CA [2]

- 1955
Morton D. May (1914-1983), purchased from the Perls Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

1955 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, given by Morton D. May [3]

[1] The main source for this provenance is the auction catalogue from the Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc. New York, titled "African Primitive Sculptures and Oceanic and American Indian Artifacts from the Collection of Dr. George Rony" (Auction dates: March 26 and March 27, 1952). 404:1955 was listed as Number 13.

[2] A letter from Morton D. May explains that he acquired the object from the Frank Perls Gallery in Los Angeles.

[3] Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control of the City Art Museum, December 8, 1955.
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