FALLS CHURCH, Va., Sept. 26, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- A 16th-century bronze plaque recovered in 1897 from the charred ruins of the Benin Kingdom's Royal Palace (Benin City, Nigeria) leads the Oct. 1 auction of the late Merton D. Simpson's private collection. Quinn's Auction Galleries in Falls Church, Virginia (metro Washington, D.C.), will conduct the Oct. 1 sale, which includes artworks and rare African relics from the renowned tribal art expert's personal collection, his Manhattan gallery, and some of his own paintings.
The plaque was one of 304 examples brought to England by Ralph Moor in 1897 following the Benin Expedition. Originally adornments above the palace courtyard, the remarkable artworks were displayed later that year at The British Museum. Following the exhibition, the Museum acquired (as a gift from the British government) 203 plaques from the collection. The remaining 101 plaques were sold to British and Continental museums; and private collectors.
The plaque from Simpson's collection remained in The British Museum's collection until 1950, when the Museum de-accessioned some of its plaques. It is believed that Simpson, who started collecting African artifacts in the 1950s, may have acquired his plaque from a European dealer, as the object appears to have been expertly restored to European standards at some point in time.
The central figure on the plaque is an elaborately garbed warrior chief holding an eben – or ceremonial dance sword – indicating his participation in a palace ceremony.
The plaque has been authenticated by ancient art expert John A. Buxton, ISA CAPP; and Kathy Curnow, PhD and Associate Professor, African Art History, Cleveland State University. It also has undergone a rigorous forensic examination by Mark Rasmussen of Rare Collections, known worldwide for its scientific investigation and research services.
Simpson's tribal art collection includes many other treasures, such as a horned plank Bedu mask with checkerboard design, Ivory Coast/Ghana, first half of 20th century; and a 15th to 17th-century seated clay figure from a cache uncovered in the 1980s in Mali, Niger Delta. A 20th-century Pwo mask from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chokwe culture, depicts a female with an elaborate fiber coiffure. Another mask from the Congo exhibits the composition and decorative style favored by the Teke people, late 19th to early 20th century.
With an acclaimed eye for spotting exceptional art and a career as an art dealer that spanned more than 50 years, Merton D. Simpson (African-American, 1928-2013) was one of the world's most respected African and tribal art dealers. He was instrumental in helping individuals and institutions around the world to build comprehensive, historically significant collections. He was also a gifted artist in his own right and an early member of the Spiral group, a collective of African-American artists co-founded in 1963 by Romare Bearden, Hale Woodruff and other art luminaries.
The Saturday, Oct. 1 auction starts at 11 a.m. Eastern time. Additional forms of bidding include absentee, phone or live online. Learn more at http://www.quinnsauctions.com.
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SOURCE Quinn's Auction Galleries