Bonhams to unleash Rare Ancient Egyptian Hippo on Collectors at Antiquities Sale

A unique turquoise faience hippo is set to auction at Bonhams next month.

The hippo dates back to the Second Intermediate period of Egypt circa 1786-1590 BC and is set to lead the way at an auction of Antiquities held on October 6.

Shaped with bulging hooded eyes and small pricked ears, the hippo's body comes decorated with lotus flowers and marsh plants. The back of the hippo also features hunting nets arranged in an 'X' motif and the piece includes a lotus flower which emanates from the piece's short 'V' shaped tail.

The term "faience" is also known as "glazed composition" and is a type of earthenware pottery.

Standing on its squat legs, the model measures just 5¼in (13cm) long, 2¼in (5.5cm) high.

More importantly, it's been estimated to sell for £80,000 to £120,000 ($124,760 - 187,140).

But to understand more behind this fascinating collectibles value, we must look back at its provenance. The piece comes from the Adda family of Alexandria and was part of a collection formed in the 1920s-1930s.

Traditionally, hippopotamuses were seemed as both threatening and protective by Egyptians due to their associations with hunting and fertility. The decoration of marsh plant and lotus motif is a reflection of this duality.

Hippo's were also traditionally found along the River Nile, the lifeblood of Ancient Egyptian civilizations who used it for transport, irrigation and food. These animals presented a massive danger to fishermen and were capable of destroying significant numbers of crops.

Therefore models like this turquoise faience hippo were created to protect individuals from the threat of Hippos even in the afterlife. Part of the ritual behind these pieces involved the breaking of the Hippo's snouts and legs to ensure there were of no danger.

Since then, it's ensured that complete models were incredibly rare to find and worth a substantial amount.

In ancient times, Egyptian society was based on the religious belief in rebirth after death and that eternal life could be ensured through piety to the goods and the preservation of the physical form through mummification.

Head of Antiquities at Bonhams, Madeleine Perridge, commented:

"Produced in Egypt only for a relatively short period of time, these brightly-coloured creatures are one of the most evocative images found in Egyptian art and are always highly sought-after."

With just over two weeks until Bonham's sale of this fine antiquity collectors could face strong competition for this fascinating piece of Egyptian heritage.


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