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WILLIAM, THE MET HIPPO, AND RELATIVES

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Posted 1 year ago

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Alfredo
(521 items)

ONE RARELY FINDS SO MUCH DOCUMENTATION ON A PIECE. IN THIS CASE, IT HAPPENS TO BE THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM'S "OFFICIAL" MASCOT, WILLIAM THE HIPPO. tHIS INFORMATION COMES FROM THE MET'S WEBSITE:

Period: Middle Kingdom
Dynasty: Dynasty 12, first half
Reign: Senwosret I to Senwosret II
Date: ca. 1961–1878 B.C.
Geography: Country of Origin Egypt, Middle Egypt, Meir (Mir), Tomb B no. 3 of the nomarch Senbi II, pit 1 (steward Senbi), Khashaba 1910
Medium:Faience
Dimensions:h. 11.2 cm (4 7/16 in); w. 20 cm (7 7/8 in)
Credit Line:Gift of Edward S. Harkness, 1917
Accession Number:17.9.1 This artwork is currently on display in Gallery 111

This well-formed statuette of a hippopotamus (popularly called "William") 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 river craft. 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.

I ASSUME THE SMALLER FIGURINES ARE ALL PART OF THE SAME FIND. I HAVE HAD THE THREE DESERT RATS (GERBILS?) SINCE 1965, WHEN THEY WERE GIVEN TO ME BY A FRIEND UPON MY FIRST VISIT TO NYC. I WAS LUCKY TO HAVE FOUND THE TWO SMALLER HIPPOS, FOR WILLIAM IS THE ONLY ONE STILL IN PRODUCTION.

AND I ALSO FOUND OUT HOW HE GOT TO BE SO FAMOUS:

From ModernDesign.Com

Made in Italy for the Metropolitan Museum. An Eglishman, Captain H.M. Raleigh,and his family owned a picture of the hippopotamus, which they named William. In 1931 the captain wrote an article for the magazine Punch about his picture of William. The name caught on, an since that time the little blue hippo has been known as William to almost everyone.

Comments

  1. bohemianglassandmore bohemianglassandmore, 1 year ago
    Those definitely brought a smile this morning :)

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