Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Female Monkey Holding Its Baby

Period:
Middle Kingdom
Dynasty:
Dynasty 12
Date:
ca. 1981–1802 B.C.
Geography:
From Egypt
Medium:
Amethyst
Dimensions:
h. 3.5 cm (1 3/8 in)
Credit Line:
Gift of Norbert Schimmel Trust, 1989
Accession Number:
1989.281.90
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 111
The monkey sits holding her baby (head missing) close to her chest. The piece is exquisitely carved and a hole has been drilled just below the shoulders for suspension.

Monkeys, not native to Egypt, were imported as exotic pets and frequently appeared as decoration on cosmetic equipment. The pose of this pair is first seen in Old Kingdom cosmetic jars (see 30.8.134, 1992.338) that also depict mother monkeys with their young. This example probably dates to Dynasty 12 of the Middle Kingdom when amethyst was frequently used as a material for miniature representations of animals. The image of a mother and infant of any species is often interpreted as symbolizing rebirth. However, small chips and signs of wear around the edges of the suspension hole and the base suggests that the piece was used by a living owner and not designed specifically as an amulet for the dead.
Collection of Norbert Schimmel, by 1964 when published. Donated to the Museum by the Norbert Schimmel Trust, 1989. Published in the MMA Bulletin, Spring 1992.

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