Thanks for sharing photos of the bronze hip mask.
I am by no means a specialist on bronze objects, I tend to stay away from metal African objects for some reason even though I find many of them very beautiful. The information that I state is just my opinion from what I do know.
It is impossible, in my opinion, to date an object from a photograph. Some people can look at an object and make determinations on stylistic qualities and patina to make a guess, but I don't think there is anyone out there that can just look at a photo and put a date to an object. They may be able to tell you if they think the object is carved or made in a style that they know to be more recent or a style that they know to be older and anyone can make a guess based on their thoughts.
A good way to date metal objects is through TL testing (thermoluminescence).
It is not a method that will give
you 100% accurate results because often times objects that are recent metal productions will intentionally have "older elements" added into them to fool the test and make the object date much older than it actually is. This is the case with terracotta pieces as well as metal objects, but this is usually done when an object is intentionally faked to be old. Benin objects have been produced in contemporary workshops for many, many years now. Old and authentic Benin metal objects are rare and very expensive.
The link below is to an article about TL testing:
As far as the 2nd part of your question, you asked the "relative importance", and I am going to assume you wanted to know the relative importance of a date given to a Benin bronze object.
Well, again I am no expert
or specialist in this matter, but from what I do know if an object is dated as being produced after the 1897 British Punitive Expedition into Benin (when virtually all royal art was stripped from Benin), then it would "most likely" be considered a contemporary production that was most likely made for the collecting market. I think it gets complicated because there were authentic objects produced later in the 20th Century, but there were also a lot of objects that were produced and continue to be produced specifically for the trade/collecting market.
It's not that these objects produced in the 20th Century have no value, because the artistry that goes into them is remarkable and they can be very aesthetically appealing, but they get complicated because objects that are pre-1897, and that fact can be proven, are valued substantially higher on the market place. The result of this has caused the faking of many of these objects in the 20th
century, and elements are added to these recent productions to make them test as being much older than they actually are so they are fakes. There are a lot of people out there trying to sell these recent productions as "old" and asking high prices for them so my advice is buyer beware
I like your bronze ram head hip mask, it seems to have some nice detail to it, but I can not tell you anything more about it from the photographs you posted. There is a bronze ram hip mask on my website (page linked below) that is quite a bit more refined in my opinion, and yours has some similar stylistic qualities to that hip mask.
What were you told about your hip mask when you bought it?
Below are some links to articles, photos and additional information for reference:
A museum page that has good information on hip
A link to an article that talks about the 1897 British Punitive Expedition:
A good article - "25 years of an Oba"
Information and examples of Benin bronze hip masks:
Page 2 and 4 of my virtual tour of the African Art collection that was
displayed at the MET in NY contains images of several Benin bronze objects for reference:
hugatroid <hugo@...> wrote:
I would like to invite our panel of specialists to look at the Benin
brass/bronze rams head hip mask photos which I've just uploaded to the
photo album area. Could anyone put a date to this and let me know it's