Hâpy or Hapi, in ancient Egyptian religion, the personification of the annual inundation of the Nile River. He was the most important among numerous personifications of aspects of natural fertility, and his dominance increased during Egyptian history. He let the Nile river flood so the land was fertile and crops could grow. He was a popular god throughout ancient Egypt. He was worshipped more than the sun god Ra. Without Hapi ancient Egypt would have perished.
Here is a brilliant description by Marie Grillot ,of the enigmatic story of this divine openwork plaque. 🙏💖
This openwork plaque, in bronze, is 18 cm high, 10.2 cm wide and has a thickness of 0.7 cm. It represents Hâpy, the god of the flooding of the Nile.
He is standing in the conventional attitude, left leg slightly forward, bare feet resting on a mat of plaited rushes.
He wears a three-part wig that leaves the ear visible and is surmounted by a tuft of aquatic plants.
His eyes are stretched out. He wears a curled false beard, an ousekh collar, and humerus and wrist bracelets. He is naked: “except the strip of material which he always wears, tied under the belly and falling over the front” in three sections …
With his right arm, he supports a tray of woven rushes on which stand two elegant ewers with conical plugs, while, from his forearm, hang three open lotus stems and two in the bud.
They reach the level of the feathers and the solar disk, which surmount a cartridge that cannot “speak” since the names have been erased.
“Usual” representation of the god Nil Hâpy
The main features of this representation are characteristic of the iconography specific to the god Hâpy. As Isabelle Franco specifies in her “Dictionary of Egyptian Mythology”: “Personifying the flood and the benefits it brings, Hâpy is represented as a man of androgynous forms, only wearing the boatmen’s belt. His female breast is the sign of the fertility that it brings and its blue flesh expresses its links with the aquatic environment … Carrying an offering table loaded with various foods expresses the fertility that provides to men and gods “.
The flooding of the Nile, which the wealth of the country’s land depended on and beyond the survival of the inhabitants, was scrutinized, with attention mixed with fear and hope. Thus, during Akhet, the season of the flood (from mid-July to mid-November), the waters had to reach the “ideal” height, generally fixed at seven cubits.
As Jean-Pierre Corteggiani explains so well: “The concern to know each year whether the ‘coming of Hâpy’ would be favourable explains why we have, since the 1st dynasty, measured and recorded the height of each flood … So that this is the case, we did not fail to make the necessary offerings and sacrifices, to recite the appropriate prayers, or to throw in the Nile female statuettes intended to arouse the rut of Hâpy … Hâpy is both the personification of the phenomenon of the flood, the water itself, and the god who controls the flow “.
Openwork plaque representing the god Hâpy – bronze – XXVth – XXVIth dynastyExhibited at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore (Maryland) – museum photo Probable “ancient” origin: Memphis (Mit Rahineh)
This plaque, dated to the Third Intermediate Period (747-525 BC), was, as explained by “The Walters art museum” in Baltimore (Maryland) where it is exhibited (54.2135): “a decorative element which could have covered the door or the lower part of a wooden sanctuary “.
As for its provenance, it is indicated by Henry Walters. Though it was acquired, before 1931, by Joseph Brummer, an American art seller of Hungarian origin, but does not specify its “antique” origin.
When it was loaned to the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris, as part of the 2012 exhibition “The twilight of the pharaohs”, Laurent Coulon was responsible for writing the presentation notice … It is rich in information …
“Like a large number of openwork plaques of this type preserved in museums around the world, this one is evidently the result of a find made by Albert Daninos, in 1900-1901, to the east of the palace of Apries de Mit Rahineh (Memphis). The excavator says that ‘all the bronzes were jumbled together, in a small space, in the middle of an uninteresting mud-brick construction, two meters deep.’ The lot also included openwork plaques, mirrors, aegis and counterweights of menat and hieroglyphics in bronze. Georges Daressy, who published the part which was transferred to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, noted that the representations and inscriptions were related with the Theban cult and that the most recent cartouche was that of Amasis, who reigned at the end of Dynasty XXVI. He, therefore, assumed that the whole constituted part of the booty of the Persian soldiers who had sacked and looted Thebes during the reign of Cambyses, at the beginning of Persian domination, this lot having been subsequently ceded to a bronze craftsman from Memphis. This scenario is plausible but unverifiable. At the very least, there is no doubt about the Theban origin of the furniture “…
And he adds: “On these objects, the cartridges bearing royal names were carefully levelled, which for the XXV and XXVI dynasties, leaves open a wide range of possibilities as to the identity of the pharaoh victim of such damnation of memory. “
The Nile God Hapy
Dictionary of Egyptian Mythology, Isabelle Franco, 2013
Ancient Egypt and its gods, Jean-Pierre Corteggiani, 2007
The twilight of the pharaohs, Jacquemart-André Museum, Institut de France, 2012
Some remains of religious furniture attributable to the Osirian buildings of the divine Theban worshipers: the bronze plaques found in Memphis by Daninos, Laurent Coulon, Egypt. Africa & East 56, 2009, p. 53-64.