Unknown artist, Egyptian
Hippopotamus, 2040-1638 BCE
7.8 x 5.2 x 20.3 cm (3 1/16 x 2 1/16 x 8 inches)
Museum Appropriation Fund 29.119
The bright blue color of this hippo seemingly contrasts with the naturalistic modeling of its face and ears. By using blue glaze and covering the hippo’s body with images of plant and animal life, the artist represented the animal in its habitat and evoked both the Nile River and the primeval waters of the god Nu, suggesting themes of life and rebirth. The Egyptians’ wish for life after death may account for the inclusion of hippo statuettes in tombs of officials during the Middle Kingdom.
The placement of hippo figures in tombs, sometimes in direct contact with the mummy, required that the animal’s dangerous aspects be negated so that the deceased would not be physically harmed. To ritually restrict this hippo’s movement in the afterlife, its legs-now restored-were broken off.
Edited ByWoolsey, Ann, ed.
Publisher & DateMuseum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 2008
TypeMonographs and Collections