Figure of Monkey Seated on Ovoid Base
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
Throughout Egyptian history, monkeys were enjoyed for their playful, whimsical behavior. This blue faience example holds a ball or piece of fruit. In antiquity, it wore a metal earring indicating that it represented a household pet. Because they had to be imported over great distances at considerable expense, the possession of monkeys indicated the owner’s wealth and social status.
ca. 1352-1336 B.C.E.
late Dynasty 18
2 1/8 x 1 1/8 x 1 9/16 in. (5.4 x 2.8 x 4 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Blue glazed figure of monkey seated on ovoid base. Body in the round, head at right angles to shoulders, ears pierced, hands extended grasping unidentified object supported by one foot and resting on base.
Condition: Intact. Glaze slightly worn on front of body.
This item is not on view
Figure of Monkey Seated on Ovoid Base, ca. 1352-1336 B.C.E. Faience, 2 1/8 x 1 1/8 x 1 9/16 in. (5.4 x 2.8 x 4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 48.181. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 48.181_PS2.jpg)
overall, 48.181_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2009
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What makes the monkey figure such a vibrant shade of teal?
The monkey is formed out of a quartz-based paste called faience which is then glazed with mineral pigments to give it that bright blue color. It was often used as a more affordable alternative to expensive materials like the blue gems turquoise and lapis lazuli. It was the mix of certain pigments with copper, exposed to very high heat, that reacted and turned such a vibrant blue. And this color signified health and life to the ancient Egyptians like the Nile River and similar to the green of vegetation!