Art/ Collection/ Art Object

A small inlaid sculpture of a soft-shelled turtle

Middle Kingdom
Dynasty 12
ca. 1991–1802 B.C.
From Egypt; Said to be from Northern Upper Egypt, Dendera
Amethyst, turquoise, lapis-lazuli, carnelian, and organic material
h. 1.6 cm (5/8 in); l. 4.7 cm (1 7/8 in); w. 3.5 cm (1 3/8 in)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926
Accession Number:
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.
Formerly Carnarvon Collection, acquired in Cairo between 1914 and 1923. Carnarvon Collection purchased by the Museum from Lady Carnarvon, 1926.

Arnold, Dorothea 1995. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, new ser., vol. 52, no. 4 (Spring), New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 5, 34, no. 36.

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