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Blue Faience Hippopotamuses Of The World, UNITE!

Ancient Egypt

Blue Faience Hippopotamuses Of The World, UNITE!

Blue faience hippopotamus was a popular statuette in Ancient Egyptian art. Some times ago in our app DailyArt we have presented such a blue faience hippopotamus from Metropolitan Museum of Art. Hippos were frequently the subject of ancient Egyptian art. Ancient Egyptians considered it to have positive traits associated with fertility and rebirth. Also, little hippopotamus statuettes were found among the objects buried in tombs. Varying in size from 9 to 23 centimeters in length, are now scattered around the world.

We tried to find some of them and present them in this article. Here is the first blue faience hippopotamus from Metropolitan Museum of Art out of 50-60 which survived to our times. His name is William.

Hippopotamus from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Blue Faience Hippopotamus, aka William, ca. 1961–1878 B.C., Metropolitan Museum of Art

Blue Faience Hippopotamus, aka William, ca. 1961–1878 B.C., Metropolitan Museum of Art


William is so popular to the visitors of Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he’s lived since 1917, that he’s even became the museum’s mascot. He 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. Three of its legs have been restored because they were purposely broken to prevent the creature from harming the deceased. We will talk about this superstition later.

Hippopotamus from Kunsthistorisches Museum

Blue Faience Hippopotamus from Kunsthistorisches Museum

Blue Faience Hippopotamus from Kunsthistorisches Museum

Kunsthistorisches Hippo was recently restored – one of his legs has been removed and repaired. The lotus flowers and a flying duck on his back indicate the marshy habitat of the animal.

Hippopotamus from Louvre Museum

Blue Faience Hippopotamus, circa 3800 - 1710 BC, Musee du Louvre

Blue Faience Hippopotamus, circa 3800 – 1710 BC, Musee du Louvre


In the late nineteenth century the egyptologists of the Cairo Museum, wanted to display the duplicates of the finest works in their collection in France, so they sold the hippopotamus to the Louvre. This hippo has a unique feature: the four legs are connected by a strip of faience and rest on a plinth, making it the only one of its kind.

Hippopotamus from Brooklyn Museum

Blue Faience Hippopotamus, ca. 1938-1539 B.C.E., Brooklyn Museum, Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

Blue Faience Hippopotamus, ca. 1938-1539 B.C.E., Brooklyn Museum, Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

The Hippo from Brooklyn Museum doesn’t have legs, even fake ones. But there is a reason for that – the ancient Egyptians believed that hippos evoke chaotic forces because of the danger they pose to humans as wild animals in this world. For this reason, they often snapped off the legs of hippopotamus statuettes before placing them in tombs, so the hippos wouldn’t be able to eat the soul of the deceased.

Hippopotamus from Risd Museum

Blue Faience, Hippopotamus, 2040-1638 BCE, Risd Museum

Blue Faience, Hippopotamus, 2040-1638 BCE, Risd Museum


The hippopotamus was also a power for good. Tawaret, a hippo goddess, protected women in pregnancy and childbirth. The fattier hippos symbolized fertility and rebirth. It has even been suggested that their colour represented the primeval waters from which the world was created, and the lotus, which closes at night and opens in the morning, another symbol of rebirth.

Hippopotamus from Charles Ortiz Collection

Blue Faience Hippopotamus, Middle Kingdom (XII-XIII Dynasty, 1850-1700 B.C.E., The George Ortiz Collection, Geneva, Switzerland

Blue Faience Hippopotamus, Middle Kingdom (XII-XIII Dynasty, 1850-1700 B.C.E., The George Ortiz Collection, Geneva, Switzerland

This hippo is unique. Out of the fifty to sixty surviving examples of faience hippopotami there are only five represented with their head turned and this is the only one which figures a dragonfly.

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Art Historian, founder and CEO of DailyArtMagazine.com and DailyArt mobile app. But to be honest, her greatest accomplishment is being the owner of Pimpek the Cat.

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