(circa 3800 - 1710 BC)
Egyptian faience (H. 12.7 cm; L. 20.5 cm; W. 8.1 cm) - Musée du Louvre, Department of Egyptian Antiquities.
This ceramic object is inspired by a scene of hippopotamus hunt. From the age of the Pyramids until the arrival of Alexander the Great in Egypt, hippopotamus hunts were depicted on the walls of tombs. Some ritual objects illustrate the same concern; two statuettes of Tutankhamen on a papyrus carrycot and spearing the invisible enemy were found in the king's tomb.
The most original representation of the myth goes back to the beginning of the first Theban Empire (also called the Middle Kingdom) in some tombs, in which were found very realistic statuettes representing hippopotamuses. They are showed as tracked down animals, mouth wide open with pain and pierced by harpoons, or walking at the bottom of the rivers.
In the last case, it is harmless and is to stay this way. It must thus be maintained under water. For this purpose, aquatic plants are painted on his limbs to trap it like a net.
On the hippopotamus' back, which evokes the surface of the water, butterflies or dragonflies may be painted, sometimes a lotus heart coming out of the basin and about to give birth to the sun, as any evil impediment is blocked underwater.
The colour turquoise, the characteristic stone of Egypt and extracted from the Sinai mines, is a symbol for the power of good and recalls the eastern horizon where the sun bathes before its birth.