Egyptian / Statuette of a Hippopotamus / ca. 1991-1783 B.C.E.Egyptian
Statuette of a Hippopotamus
ca. 1991-1783 B.C.E.

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Creator Nationality: African; North African; Egyptian
Creator Name-CRT: Egyptian
Title: Statuette of a Hippopotamus
Title Type: Object name
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: -199
Creation End Date: -178
Creation Date: ca. 1991-1783 B.C.E.
Object Type: Sculpture
Classification Term: Statues
Materials and Techniques: Faience
Dimensions: H. 4 3/8 in. (11.2 cm), L. 7 7/8 in. (20 cm)
AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 17.9.1
Credit Line: Gift of Edward S. Harkness, 1917

This well-formed statuette of a hippopotamus demonstrates the Egyptian artist's appreciation for the natural world. It was molded in faience, a ceramic material made of ground quartz. Beneath the blue-green glaze, the body was painted with the outlines of river plants, symbolizing the marshes in which the animal lived.

The seemingly benign appearance that this figurine presents is deceptive. To the ancient Egyptians, the hippopotamus was one of the most dangerous animals in their world. The huge creatures were a hazard for small fishing boats and other rivercraft. The beast might also be encountered on the waterways in the journey to the afterlife. As such, the hippopotamus was a force of nature that needed to be propitiated and controlled, both in this life and the next. This example was one of a pair found in a shaft associated with the tomb chapel of the steward Senbi II at Meir, an Upper Egyptian site about thirty miles south of modern Asyut. Three of its legs have been restored because they were purposely broken to prevent the creature from harming the deceased. The hippo was part of Senbi's burial equipment, which included a canopic box (also in the Metropolitan Museum), a coffin, and numerous models of boats and food production.

AMICA ID: MMA_.17.9.1
AMICA Library Year: 2000
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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