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Fish

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

The fish represented here is the Nile perch (or boltí), whose breeding habits attracted the Egyptians' attention. After the female perch lays her eggs, the fish draws them into her mouth, where they stay until they hatch and the young emerge. The Egyptians saw this as a kind of spontaneous generation and thus took the perch as a symbol of resurrection and rebirth. The figure is hollow and contains several clay pellets, representing the eggs. When shaken, the piece served as a rattle, perhaps to soothe a crying baby.

MEDIUM Pottery, paint
  • Place Made: Africa
  • DATES ca. 1390-1336 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY late XVIII Dynasty
    PERIOD New Kingdom
    DIMENSIONS 2 9/16 x 4 7/16 x 1 1/4 in. (6.5 x 11.2 x 3.2 cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 48.111
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Fish, ca. 1390-1336 B.C.E. Pottery, paint, 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)
    IMAGE overall, 48.111_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION 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.
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