Likely New Kingdom, Dynasty 18–20
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This wooden shawabty carries a substantial bitumen coating, now somewhat flaked in areas and discolored to a dull, olive green. The shawabty is a sharply proportioned mummiform figure wearing tripartite wig. Arms are folded over the chest, modelled as though bundled beneath linen wrappings. No hands are shown. The black coating obscures whether the shawabty was originally intended to be shown holding any objects or if painted decoration or text were applied. Small fragments have broken from the right arm and foot.
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.
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)
Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way