Late Period 664 – 332 B.C
The ‘Gillot’ Taweret
This statuette represents the goddess Taweret, an apotropaic goddess, whose domain was the protection of pregnant women and their babies, especially during childbirth. Her threatening image, intended to frighten away demons and other deadly creatures, combines human, hippopotamus, crocodile and lion attributes. Taweret or “Ipet” may have represented the constellation now called Draco (“the Dragon”) in which the star Thuban, the ancient north polar star, was located. An illustration can be found on Seti I’s tomb ceiling in the Valley of the Kings (cf. Z. Hawass, The Royal Tombs of Egypt, London, 2006, pp. 277-278). Probably due to her celestial importance, Ipet was conflated with Nut and Hathor, as a sky goddess and protector of the sun. As a hippopotamus, symbol of fecundity, this statuette could protect pregnant women from malevolent forces.
The family unit was an important feature of ancient Egyptian life, both for humans and for the divine. Establishing a household and producing a child, particularly a son, was very important for the Egyptians. However, in pre-modern cultures, pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period were dangerous for both mother and child. Although we do not have exact rates of child mortality in ancient Egypt, it can be said that a mother would be lucky if half her children lived to be adults. The ancient Egyptians had remarkable medical knowledge, however hand in hand with practical applications of medicines and other ‘scientific’ therapies, the ancient Egyptians would also make use of magical or religious interventions to address health issues. They considered the recitation of spells and prayers as well as the use of amulets or figurines as appropriate treatments for an illness or the answer to a personal problem. Figurines of Taweret, such as this one, may have therefore been given as gifts, kept in household shrines, or dedicated at local temples in hope of, or thank for, a successful birth.
This figure of Taweret, portrays the hippopotamus goddess pregnant and standing in a human manner. Her mouth is open, displaying her denuded teeth. She wears a striated tripartite wig and a large flowered necklace around her neck. Her full chest covers her belly, and she has a crocodile tail along her back. This beautiful statuette’s almost perfect condition, exceptional craftsmanship and size suggest that it was most probably created for a temple.
“Ancienne Collection Charles Gillot (1853-1903)”, Mardi 4 et mercredi 5 mars 2008, Christie’s, Paris, Lot 114.
Acquired on 12th January 1898 from Rollin & Feuardent, 4 rue et place Louvois in Paris for 160 Francs. Accompanied by a copy of the original invoice from 1898 (see below).
Recorded in the account of Charles Gillot in January 1898.
Gillot Family Collection until 2008.
Sold at “Ancienne Collection Charles Gillot (1853-1903)”, Mardi 4 et mercredi 5 mars 2008, Christie’s, Paris, Lot 114. Accompanied by French Cultural Passport (099169).