Restitution of 26 works to the Republic of Benin


 In 2018, the President of the French Republic, at the proposal of the museum and the Ministry of Culture, announced the restitution of 26 works from the royal treasury in Abomey - the spoils of war of General Dodds taken from the palace burned down by King Béhanzin after the fighting of the Second Franco-Dahomean War in 1892 - to the Republic of Benin.

The bill was presented to the Council of Ministers on 15 July 2020. It was unanimously adopted at first reading in the French National Assembly on 6 October 2020 and adopted with amendments by the French Senate on 4 November 2020. Following this legislative process, the bill was passed into law by the National Assembly on 17 December 2020.

The administrative authorities had one year maximum, from entry into force of the text, to transfer these works to the Republic of Benin.

On 9 November 2021, the transfer of ownership was signed at the Élysée Palace by Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Patrice Talon.

The 26 works arrived in Benin the following day, where the official reception ceremony was held.

This process was conducted in complete collaboration with the Beninese authorities and the Beninese curators in charge of the works.

Vernissage l'exposition "Art du Bénin, d'hier et d'aujourd'hui" en présence de Mme Roselyne BACHELOT, ministre français de la Culture

Ce processus a été conduit en pleine collaboration avec les autorités publiques du Bénin et les conservateurs béninois en charge des œuvres.


The large bocio royal statues, once coated with magical substances, protect soldiers. These hybrid figures, half-man half-animal, bear the emblems of the kings: the cardinal with its flame-red feathers for King Ghézo, the lion for Glélé, and the shark for Béhanzin.

Before going into combat, the soldiers promised them victory and trophies for the box of courage. These large statues, which emphasise the superhuman nature of monarchs, sometimes led armies into battle and took part in the annual procession of the kingdom’s wealth.

  • Half-man half-lion royal statue of King Glélé: attributed to Sossa Dede. Fon people, Benin, Abomey. Between 1858 and 1889, wood, pigments, leather.
  • Half-man half-bird royal statue of King Ghézo: attributed to the Donvide workshop or Sossa Dede, Akati workshop. Fon people, Benin, Abomey. Second half of the 19th century, wood, pigments, iron. 
  • Half-man half-shark royal statue of King Béhanzin: attributed to Sossa Dede or the Houeglo family, Fon people, Benin, Abomey. Between 1890 and 1892, wood, pigments, metal.


Made in the Yoruba style, this monoxyle throne (carved from single blocks of wood) comes from Cana, twenty kilometres from Abomey. Considered sacred, this city was regularly visited by the kings of the dynasty for ceremonies and rituals. Some kings had second palaces in Cana. It also acted as a stopping place for prisoners destined for the slave trade in Ouidah, on the coast.

This work represents the king, surrounded by his servants, under a parasol overlooking a line of shackled slaves. The anonymous Yoruba artist exhibits the style, and origin, of a neighbouring region conquered by the Kingdom of Dahomey.

  • Fon people, Yoruba style, Benin, city of Cana. Late 18th - early 19th century, wood, pigments.


The walls and doors of the palace of Abomey were decorated with allegoric motifs alluding to the divinities of the Fon pantheon, to the great achievements of the kings, and to memorable historic events. These images compared the living king to his illustrious ancestors and voodoo divinities. These doors covered the openings on Glele's ajalala (palace).

  • Attributed to the Sossa Dede family, Fon people, Benin, Abomey. Circa 1880 - 1889, wood, pigments, metal.  


During the ceremony for the late kings, the king sat on this throne placed on a rostrum. The sculptor was inspired by the Akan (Ghana) and Portuguese styles. 

  • Fon people, Afro-Brazilian style, Benin, Abomey, Early 19th century, wood, metal. 


les 26 œuvres restituées à la République du Bénin

anthropomorphic royal sculptures

thrones and seats

Door from the royal palace of Abomey

portable altars

recades (warrior dance staffs)


other objects


Resources produced by the museum

Exhibition, talks and conferences

  • Click on each event to listen to or download the audio recordings.
Artists of Abomey

Artists of Abomey

Dialogue on an African kingdom

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This exhibition presents the artists of the kingdom of Dahomey (1600-1894), in present-day Benin, through 82 works and 8 old graphic documents.

Rencontre avec Léonard Ahonon et Joseph Adandé

Rencontre avec Léonard Ahonon et Joseph Adandé

A la veille de l’ouverture de l’exposition Artistes d'Abomey

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Léonard Ahonon (conservateur du musée historique d’Abomey, Bénin) et Joseph Adandé (professeur d’Histoire de l’Art à l’Université d’Abomey-Calavi, Bénin), sont conseillers scientifiques auprès de Gaëlle Beaujean-Baltzer, commissaire de l’exposition Artististes d'Abomey.

L’art de cour d’Abomey – Le sens des objets

L’art de cour d’Abomey – Le sens des objets

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Rencontre avec Gaëlle Beaujean, responsable de collections Afrique au musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac à l'occasion de la parution de son livre aux Presses du Réel.

L' histoire de Guedegbé, devin des rois Ghézo, Glèlè et Béhanzin

L' histoire de Guedegbé, devin des rois Ghézo, Glèlè et Béhanzin

Racontée par Bah Bachalou Nondichao

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Bah Bachalou Nondichao est historien traditionnel d’Abomey

L’histoire de l’armée danhomènne (les amazones)

L’histoire de l’armée danhomènne (les amazones)

Racontée par Daa Bachalou Nondichao

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Daa Bachalou Nondichao est historien traditionnel d’Abomey.

L’histoire d’Ekplékendo Akati

L’histoire d’Ekplékendo Akati

Sculpteur du dieu Gou

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Racontée par Bah Bachalou Nondichao, historien traditionnel d’Abomey.

L'art royal africain

L'art royal africain

Rencontre avec Suzanne Preston-Blier

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Rencontre avec Suzanne Preston-Blier autour de son livre "l'art royal africain" sans le cadre de l'exposition "Artistes d'Abomey"

Visuel du bandeau de la page 

Montage photgraphique avec :

  • à gauche, une prise du vue de l'exposition "Bénin, la restitution des 26 trésors du royaume d'Abomey" au foyer du théâtre © musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, photo J.B
  • à droite, le détail d'une photographie tirée du reportage photo du vernissage de l'exposition "Arts du Bénin d'hier et d'aujourd'hui de la Restitution à la Révélation » au Palais de la Marina, à Cotonou au Bénin © Présidence du Bénin. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Source de la photo sur le compte flickr de la Présidence du Bénin