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Date: 1783–1640 BC

Culture: Egyptian

Period: Middle Kingdom, 2055–1650 BC

Dynasty: Dynasty 13, 1773–1650 BC

Medium: faience
3 3/4 x 7 1/4 x 2 7/8 in. (9.5 x 18.4 x 7.3 cm)
Credit Line: Funds given by Martha I. Love
Object Number: 242:1952
Place from:Egypt
Classification: SCULPTURE
Current Location:On View, Gallery 313
Notes:This figure of a hippo was molded in faience, a crushed quartz glazed and fired at a relatively low temperature. Copper salts in the glaze impart the bright blue or blue-green color so characteristic of faience objects. Over the animal's naturalistic shape, the craftsman painted lily plants that appear as a giant tattoo. Small sculptures of hippos such as this one were placed in tombs in ancient Egypt as reminders of the Egyptians' love of hunting. Each of the sculpted hippo's legs was ritually broken in order to render it harmless in the afterlife.

In ancient Egypt herds of hippos were a constant threat to farmers' fields. The first pharaohs hunted hippos in the marshes and eventually drove them far south into Upper Egypt. Hippos became associated with chaos, and the hunt for hippos became a metaphor for how the pharaohs of ancient Egypt could conquer evil.

ProvenanceMaurice Nahman, Cairo, Egypt

by 1929 -
Comtesse de Behague, Paris, France, acquired from Maurice Nahman [1]

- 1952
Charles Ratton, Paris, France

1952 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Charles Ratton [2]

[1] In his 1929 publication, Ludwig Keimer notes that Behague acquired the piece from Nahman, but he did not record the date nor the method of transfer. He also said that all of the Hippos in the Nahman collection were from Matariji, discovered by Bedouin [Ludwig Keimer. "Revue de L'Égypte Ancienne." Paris: Libraire de la Société Francaise D'Égyptologie. 1929, Vol. II, p. 222, no. 9-10].

[2] See Invoice [undated, SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control of the City Art Museum, October 10, 1952.
Exhibition History
Title: The Rathbone Years: Masterpieces acquired for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1955-1972 and for The Saint Louis Art Museum, 1940-1955
Date: June 8, 1972 - October 8, 1972
Venue: MFABoston

Title: The Book and The Spade, Archaeology and The Bible
Date: April 13 - May 4, 1975
Venue: University of Wisconsin, Department of Hebrew and Semitic Study
Venue: The Jewish Museum

Title: Miniatures in Art
Date: March 13 - June 24, 1984
Venue: SLAM

Title: Biblical Art and Archaeology
Date: April 13 – May 4, 1975
Venue: Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Publication History
Title: Saint Louis Art Museum: Handbook of the Collection
Year Published: 2004

Title: The Rathbone Years: Masterpieces Acquired for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1955–1972, and for the St. Louis Art Museum, 1940–1955
Year Published: 1972

Title: Egyptian and Near Eastern Art
Periodical Title: The Saint Louis Art Museum Bulletin
Edition: Summer
Year Published: 1990

Title: Handbook of the Collections: The City Art Museum of Saint Louis
Year Published: 1953

Title: Nouvelles recherches au sujet du potamogeton lucens L. dans l'Egypte ancienne et remarques sur l'ornamentation des hippopotames en faience du Moyen Empire
Periodical Title: Revue de l'Egypte ancienne
Edition: Tome deuxieme
Year Published: 1929

Title: Documents pour servir a l'etude de l'art Egyptien
Year Published: 1931

Title: The Book and the Spade
Year Published: 1975

In Collection(s)