When William Fagg was first shown this rare cast nineteen years ago, the owners told him that they understood from the vendor that it came from Benin City. In Fagg's opinion it was more likely to have been made in Ijebu-Ode, an idea with which Hans Witte was in agreement. Willaim Fagg wrote the following note about the bowl in 1991.
The history if Ijebu-Ode since the sixteenth century, and its importance as a center of brass casting, has been lucidly set out by Dr Drewal (Drewal, Pemberton and Abiodun, 1989, pp.117-145). Ijebu-Ode is also a centre of the powerful cult of osugbo (as it is known in the Ijebu area, elsewhere it is called ogboni), whose members use both the short brass rods (edan) as insignia, larger figures (onile) and other paraphernalia of cast brass. The present bowl would appear to be the correct size for use in ifa divination, a cult used in association with osugbo/ogboni.
Apart from a well-known horseman cast for the altar of the ancestors of the Obas in Benin City, brass and bronze examples of them are rare. Drewal (op.cit. p.224, fig.265) illustrates a brass equestrian figure from the collection of Gaston deHavenon, which appears to be related to the work of the "Master of the Courtly Entourage", by an artist working in Abeokuta in the 19th century. He suggests that it might perhaps be the stem of an Ifa divination cup or "an Osugbo piece". Whilst the general form of that casting is similar to our bowl, they differ in important details.
The hooded eyes of both the horse and rider of our bowl are similar to those found in the casting of "the Hunter Style", named after the magnificent hunter in the British Museum collections,with a deer about his shoulders; but our horseman has no trace of the "ladderlike" decoration used to embellish bronzes that have been brought together under the title Lower Niger Bronze Industries. The horse trappings and borders to the base and bowl are decorated with the plaited motifs so typical of the art of Ijebu-Ode and other centres of Yoruba art.