A small inlaid sculpture of a soft-shelled turtle

Middle Kingdom

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 111

This exquisitely manufactured figurine represents an African soft-shelled turtle, Trionyx triunguis. Created from amethyst, a difficult stone to carve, this turtle’s back was inlaid with tiny semi-precious stones designed to imitate the stippled pattern found on the animal’s shell.

This object is a sophisticated example of Middle Kingdom artistic skill and creativity and must have been commissioned by an elite member of society. Animal figurines have a long history as gifts to deities and as burial goods to protect the dead.

A small inlaid sculpture of a soft-shelled turtle, Amethyst, turquoise, lapis-lazuli, carnelian, adhesive

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