Whip Handle in the Shape of a Horse

Period: New Kingdom

Dynasty: Dynasty 18

Reign: reign of Amenhotep III

Date: ca. 1390–1353 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt

Medium: Ivory, garnet, paint

Dimensions: L.. 14.6 (5 3/4 in); H. 5.5 (2 3/16 in); Th. 1.8 cm (11/16 in)

Credit Line: Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926

Accession Number: 26.7.1293


The Egyptians were very observant of the natural world, and their representations of animals are usually detailed and lifelike. This small handle of a light whip or fly whisk is carved in the form of a galloping or leaping horse. It is made of ivory stained reddish brown and black, and the remaining eye (one has fallen out) is inlaid with garnet.

In Dynasty 18, the horse was a relative newcomer to Egypt. It had been introduced in the Second Intermediate Period during the Hyksos domination of northern Egypt (ca. 1640–1550 B.C.), when new elements of warfare, notably the horse and chariot, were brought from the Near East. The Egyptians valued the horse for both its swiftness and its beauty. This lively sculpture, especially the gracefully arched back, typifies the ability of Egyptian artists to evoke what they considered the essential qualities of a particular animal. The smooth, curving body of the horse fits comfortably into the hand, demonstrating the artist’s skill in combining utilitarian purpose and exquisite decorative design.