COLLECTION: Decorative Sculpture

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Hippoceros

1926-1927
Origin: America, Southeast, North Carolina, Balfour
Overall: 29 1/2 x 58 1/4 x 16in. (74.9 x 148 x 40.6cm)
Black walnut wood, leather, glass, bone, horn, wool, iron, copper, and phonographic works
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1961.701.15
Large heavy figure of an animal carved from several blocks of walnut wood resembling a hippopotamus, except for two curved, rhinoceros-like horns on the nose. The mouth is open showing two rows of evenly spaced bone teeth plus four long tusk-like teeth set on either side of mouth top and bottom. A hinged door in the anima's back opens up to a victrola set inside the body of the carving. The crank shaft can be seen on the animal's proper left side. A red leather tongue in the open mouth is attached by a wire to the mechanism so that it moves as the record turns. The animal has taxidermy eyes and at one time was said to have rhinestones in its nostrils which are no longer there. The neck is grooved, and toes are carved at the ends of all four feet.
Label:All variety of animals interested Edgar McKillop as models for his sculpture, but among his exotic subjects, which include a kangaroo, lion, and gorilla, the Hippoceros remains the largest and the most ambitious of his visionary sculptures. McKillop ingeniously combined the physical characteristics of a rhinoceros and a hippopotamus to create this fantastic creature. Not satisfied to merely depict the animal, the artist hollowed the figure to accept a hand-cranked phonograph that he placed under a hinged lid in the animal's back. A wire attached to the platen and extending to the open mouth supports a piece of leather stuffed with wool and fashioned into a tongue. When a record was played, the platen's rotation caused the wire to move the tongue forward and back. Music emanating from within this strange and wonderful beast no doubt amused adults and enthralled children.
The records that McKillop played on the Hippoceros have been lost, but one of his neighbor's recalled that one of them, made by the artist, included the phrase, "E. A. McKillop, a born carving man!"
Provenance:Pauline Sumner, Bat Cave, N.C.; possibly Debrada Fisher, Waynesville, N.C.; Louis Stuart, New York, N.Y.
Mark(s):On the proper right side is stamped "HAND CARVED/MADE BY/E.A. McKILLOP/BALFOUR NC".