Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
This charmingly painted tilapia symbolizes fertility. Because tilapias carry their fertilized eggs in their mouth until they are ready to hatch, the Egyptians viewed them as capable of spontaneous generation and thus regeneration and rebirth. X-rays have revealed pellets of clay inside this fish that represent the eggs and suggest it was used as a rattle during rituals, a form of musical accompaniment to prayer. The pastel black, red, and blue paints were common on pottery made at Akhenaten’s capital Amarna, and at his father’s palace at Malkata.
ca. 1390-1336 B.C.E.
late Dynasty 18
2 9/16 x 4 7/16 x 1 1/4 in. (6.5 x 11.2 x 3.2 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Painted pottery fish, interior hollow and fitted with six unpainted pottery pellets. Face area, tail, dorsal and anus fins and underbody painted light blue. Scales painted with black outline on tan background, in part colored blue and red. Eyes, mouth and gills incised. Anus in raised relief. Possibly a rattle but more probably a food offering intended to furnish supply of fish to deceased.
Condition: Minor chips on tail and fins. Tail assembled from two pieces. Pellets probably represent eggs.
This item is not on view
Fish, ca. 1390-1336 B.C.E. Clay, pigment, 2 9/16 x 4 7/16 x 1 1/4 in. (6.5 x 11.2 x 3.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 48.111. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 48.111_SL1.jpg)
overall, 48.111_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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How would the little blue "plaque" and this percussive fish have been displayed or kept during their time?
Would it be kept in a box or some sort of vessel or "displayed" on a mount like it is here?
The small balls inside, which make the fish rattle, represent the eggs that the fish would lay to create new life!
I believe the mount is a method of museum display -- not the way its original users/owners would have kept it. I actually don't know how the fish would have been stored, but it would have been used in religious rituals, where music and dance were common.