Middle Kingdom Jasper Hippopotamus

SKU SK.024
Circa

2100 BC to 1800 BC

Dimensions

1.5″ (3.8cm) high x 2.8″ (7.1cm) wide

Medium

Jasper

Origin

Egypt

Gallery Location

UAE


 

This is an exceptionally rare and refined sculpture of a hippopotamus carved from mottled jasper. Striding forward, with his front right leg extended, the pose is aggressive and confrontational. Hippopotami were feared by the ancient Egyptians for the damage they could inflict on people and crops. According to legend, one of the earliest Egyptian kings was killed by a hippopotamus and they were associated with the evil god Seth. Horus was often depicted on temple walls engaged in hunting the hippopotamus, an activity symbolising the triumph of order over destruction. Although the animal could have more positive associations with fertility and rebirth, the red/orange colour of the jasper is suggestive of an association with Seth. The muscles around the neck and above legs are clearly defined and the mouth is slightly ajar. The miniature scale suggests that it may have been used as a talisman or amulet and the choice of material confirms that this was a highly prestigious object.

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