Shawabty

Egyptian
New Kingdom, Dynasty 18–20
1550–1070 B.C.


Dimensions

Height: 17.5 cm (6 7/8 in.)

Accession Number

02.531

Medium or Technique

Wood

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This wooden shawabty depicts a mummiform figure of slender proportions. It wears a tripartite wig, painted black. Its arms are folded over the chest with hands indicated crossed and opposed in reddish-brown paint. Patches of black near the hands may be meant to indicate bracelets. Painted decoration is well preserved. A general white ground likely simulates linen bandages; the face is also reddish brown with black and white accents for facial features; a large yellow crescent and black line (with a vague hint of blue) on the upper torso represent a pectoral necklace/collar. A yellow column down the front of the legs provides a vertical register for black painted hieroglyphic text, some of which has faded/worn away. There is a fragment missing from the front of the arms, and there are small cracks in the wood.

An ancient Egyptian shawabty is a funerary figurine that was intended to magically animate in the Afterlife in order to act as a proxy for the deceased when called upon to tend to field labor or other tasks. This expressed purpose was sometimes written on the shawabty itself in the form of a “Shawabty Spell,” of which versions of various length are known. Shorter shawabty inscriptions could also just identify the deceased by name and, when applicable, title(s). However, many shawabtys carry no text at all. The ideal number of such figurines to include in a tomb or burial seems to have varied during different time periods.

Provenance

By 1902: with the estate of Mrs. S.D. Warren; 1902: given to the MFA by the estate of Mrs. S.D. Warren. (Accession Date: October 11, 1902)

Credit Line

Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Samuel D. Warren