Shawabty

Egyptian
New Kingdom, Dynasty 19–20
1295–1070 B.C.


Dimensions

Height x width: 15.9 x 4.7 cm (6 1/4 x 1 7/8 in.)

Accession Number

72.1659

Medium or Technique

Pottery

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of brownish clay has a thick coating of white paint over majority of body in imitation of linen wrappings. It is a flat-backed mummiform figure with a black painted tripartite wig with brownish-orange bands at the ends of the front lappets of hair. It wears a multi-stranded necklace painted yellow and white. Its crossed and opposed on the chest. Each hand holds a hoe against the shoulder. A vertical band of black hieroglyphs on a yellow background runs down the center of the legs. The shawabty’s face is painted light reddish-brown, as are hands, necklace, and text border lines. The shawabty was broken, but has been mended. The break obscures reading of the owner’s name, which may contain the element “-Inpu.”

Translation of the text:
The illuminated one, Osiris …-Inpu(?), True-of-Voice.

Transliteration of the text:
(sH)D Wsir … Inpw(?) mAa xrw

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 1836: Robert Hay Collection, Linplum, Scotland; 1863: to his son, Robert James Alexander Hay; 1868-1872: Way Collection, Boston (purchased by Samuel A. Way through London dealers Rollin and Feuardent, 27 Haymarket); 1872: given to the MFA by Samuel's son, C. Granville Way. (Accession Date: June 28, 1872)

Credit Line

Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way