The Benin Expedition of 1897 was a punitive expedition by a United Kingdom force of 1,200 under Admiral Sir Harry Rawson in response to the defeat of a previous British-led invasion force under Acting Consul General James Philips (which had left all but two men dead). Rawson’s troops captured, burned, and looted Benin City, bringing to an end the west African Kingdom of Benin. As a result much of the country’s art, including the Benin Bronzes, was either destroyed, looted or dispersed.
September 9th, 1897, Omo n’Oba Ovoramwen is taken out of Benin by a NCPF: unit of sixty men commanded by Captains Carter and Henniker to Gele-Gele port, and transferred on to a Protectorate yacht on the final journey (exile) to Calabar.
Phillips’s objectives, as stated in a letter dated the 16 November 1896) were finally achieved. The city had been ‘visited’ (invaded and captured), the ‘obstruction’ (Omo n’Oba Ovenramwen) had been removed and the `ivory’ (treasuries of Benin kingdom: Artworks, sacred and religious items, mnemonics and visual history, including personal effects) in his Palace stolen.
Some of the ivory was shipped to England, and a fraction of it finally auctioned in Paris to pay for the ‘visit’. A reference book has it that a large collection of art from Benin is brought to France; these works influence the artistic and formal concerns of modern artists, especially Pablo Picasso and the Cubist.
Source: British museum